Funding has been spent on tackling existing NHS pressures instead of integrating health and social care systems, according to the National Audit Office.
The chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board Izzi Seccombe (Con) has described the findings in the NAO’s report as “alarming”.
In 2016-17 the NHS received an additional £1.8bn in sustainability and transformation funding. This was intended to prepare the NHS for significantly less funding growth from 2017-18, and to enable services to be reconfigured to improve performance and efficiency across the health and social care system.
The report, published today, said financial constraints have made it difficult for sustainability and transformation partnerships to shift focus from immediate pressures within the NHS to establishing integrated services.
It also adds there “remains a huge challenge in reconciling the culture and processes of local government and NHS partners”.
Responding to the report, Cllr Seccombe (Con) called on the government to provide councils with urgent funding to invest in prevention which would ease pressures on hospitals and reduce costs.
She said: “This alarming report shows that despite receiving £1.8bn in extra funding last year, the NHS is struggling to cope with the costs of increased demand and has not been able to make enough progress in the vital long-term transformation of services because it has had to spend most its extra money on current pressures.
“Prioritising funding for the NHS over social care will not help reduce pressures on hospitals. Instead of making costly short-term bailouts to treat the symptoms of pressures, money would be better invested in treating the causes of these pressures.”
Cllr Seccombe added that social care must be put on an equal footing with the NHS in order to create a sustainable system.
She added: “The NHS could learn a great deal from local government. While the NHS can operate a deficit budget, councils have a statutory duty to return a balanced budget each year and continue to do so. Councils are the most efficient part of the public sector, providing essential services people rely whilst balancing the books, despite significant funding pressures.”
Meanwhile, the Chartered Institute for Public Finance & Accountancy has called for further government investment in sustainability and transformation plans.
Cipfa’s chief executive Rob Whiteman, who is also chair of East London Health and Care Partnership, said: “STPs are our best shot at making meaningful and lasting improvements to health and social care services. And across the country, many STPs are making a promising start.
“To ensure STPs can reach their full potential, it is important that they are supported by a greater level of resources and that their plans are realistic. Otherwise, the transformation agenda will be jeopardised and services will continue to be at risk.”