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Local government has much to gain from better care fund success

Graham Burgess
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We’ve already seen the effect of acute sector lobbying of health secretary Jeremy Hunt over concerns the BCF could leave hospital trusts out of pocket, says Wirral’s chief executive

I am disturbed at recent reports that there is a lack of commitment within health services and some parts of the government towards the better care fund.

I feel there are real dangers that those in the health sector who have always opposed the principle of engaging with local authorities will make every attempt to undermine this very important initiative.

This is an election year: we all know the NHS, particularly the acute sector, is experienced at raising the spectre of hospital closures and no doubt this approach will continue throughout the run-up to the 2015 polls.

We’ve already seen the effect of the acute sector’s lobbying of health secretary Jeremy Hunt over concerns the better care fund could leave hospital trusts out of pocket. Mr Hunt’s recent NHS Confederation speech in Liverpool advocated risk sharing between hospitals and care providers – that means local government taking even greater risks.

I’m sure many in the government know the only way to improve the service for vulnerable and older people is for local government to take a bigger role in commissioning services.

There have also been reports, featured in the LGC, about how the government’s additional assessment of areas’ better care fund plans could undermine the programme by leaving too little time to make changes to services.

It would be very regrettable, at this late stage particularly, if all the effort put into this was lost.

In Wirral, our better care fund plan includes a range of changes, investments and increased access to services – from integrated care co-ordination teams and seven-day provision across primary and social care to investing in reablement services to support more people at home. We have also placed integrated teams in hospitals to prevent admissions and encourage timely discharges.

The LGA has a difficult role to play looking after the interests of local government and not accepting too much risk. However, by looking at Wirral’s better care fund plan, it is clear there is a real prize to be won for local government in this, which must only be given up if it is totally impractical to continue.

Graham Burgess, chief executive, Wirral MBC

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