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NHS chief urges flexibility for care spending

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The National Health Service and local government must both be flexible over how they meet demands for health and social care as spending cuts bite, NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson has said.

Speaking at a Commons health committee hearing, he said health and social care were interdependent, and recognised that if councils cut social care the result might be more people entering NHS hospitals.

“Health spending is protected [from spending cuts] while social care is not and we need to be really flexible about how we use resources,” he said.

“We cannot get into people reverting to their organisational boundaries when money is tight.

“If people are not in social care they may be in the NHS, so we need to work jointly with social care on how best to use that resource.”

Sir David urged councils to invest in re-ablement to help people to live independently, rather than go into costly care accommodation.

He said North Yorkshire CC had saved £1m from an investment in telecare, which he said could save the equivalent of 1.5% of council care budgets.

David Behan, Department of Health director general for social care, local government and care partnerships, said councils should search out inefficiencies as “council care costs are £850 a week and in the private sector it is £450, which suggests some questions for councils that still have large amounts of residential care”.

Mr Behan said that among councils he had found “a sevenfold difference in social care costs, which cannot be explained by localism alone; there is more to be done on efficiency and we have the evidence now of what works”.

But he added: “Generally local government has the best track record on efficiency savings [in the public sector], and I don’t think many people would argue with that.”

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