New metrics to keep tabs on progress towards health and social care integration must not increase the reporting burden on councils, senior local government figures have warned.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced plans for a “set of unified metrics” to measure performance against the better care fund objectives and the broader integration of health and social care at the Local Government Association conference last week.
He praised the work of councils and the NHS in delivering the better care fund but said effective measurement was the “missing” piece of the jigsaw.
He told delegates the new measurement regime would “help ensure that the process of integration carries on at the pace we need over the coming years”.
The LGA and the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers have called for the metrics to minimise the burden on councils.
Both described the Department of Health’s previous reporting requirements in relation to the better care fund as onerous.
Solace director Graeme McDonald said: “When the BCF plans and monitoring system first came out it felt like a return to days of centralised form filling so hopefully this is a mechanism for avoiding that in the future.
“We need to see the detail to understand what’s being proposed but we would hope any changes to the monitoring system would be with a view to rationalising it and focusing on the things that are important, rather than being a box-ticking exercise.”
Izzi Seccombe (Con), chair of the LGA’s wellbeing board and leader of Warwickshire CC, told LGC any reporting associated with the metrics must be “proportionate and relevant”.
“We will be working with the DH to understand what that means and what level of burden it’s going to put on and whether we can help to influence how it’s rolled out,” she added.
The metrics will be published for the first time in December and then every quarter.
Ray James, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, warned this timetable could be challenging.
“I am sure we can make a productive start, but we must allow space for new measures to emerge. If we do not, I fear that if we count what we have always counted, we will get what we have always got.”
Key objectives of the BCF include reducing emergency admissions to accident and emergency departments by providing enhanced out of hospital care and preventative services.
Reducing the number of delayed transfers of care and improved data sharing between NHS and local authorities are also central objectives of the programme and could form part of the metrics.
Mr Hunt told the conference that the methodology would be agreed by the Department of Health, the Department for Communities & Local Government, the NHS and the LGA.