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Updated: £3.8bn for health and social care integration

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Chancellor George Osborne has announced a £3.8bn fund for social care services for 2015-16.

In today’s spending round announcement the chancellor said the government would be “bringing together a significant chunk” of health and social care budgets, in order to reduce demand for NHS services.

The money will be spent on services to be “commissioned jointly and seamlessly by the local NHS and councils working together”, he said.

A transfer of funds from the NHS to councils’ social care budgets has taken place on an annual basis since 2011, and the value of the transfer has risen gradually every year, reaching £1bn in 2014-15.

Mr Osborne said today that transfers had so far saved “hundreds of millions” of pounds.

In an exclusive interview with LGC’s sister title Health Service Journal, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said that in order to access the funds, councils, clinical commissioning groups and health and wellbeing boards must bring forward “extremely ambitious” plans to spend the money - and these would have to be signed off by health minister Norman Lamb and a member of the Communities and Local Government team.

The plans can be signed off this year, enabling CCGs and local authorities to begin to develop their proposals.

Mr Hunt said social care would be required to move to a “seven day” working arrangement if it wanted to access the funds.

He rejected the idea put forward by Labour’s shadow health secretary Andy Burnham of a government-mandated full merger of NHS and social care budgets. He said the coalition’s proposals would drive extensive integration across health and social care without “the upheaval and organisational disruption” of a “massive re-organisation of budgets and structures”.

In the case of previous transfers of funds from the NHS to local government, councils have needed approval from clinical commissioning groups and their predecessors, primary care trusts, about the use of the budgets. However, the Department of Health has not been directly involved.

The introduction of Department of Health scrutiny of the plans follows concerns raised in an interview with LGC by the department’s director-general for social care, Jon Rouse, that some were using the extra cash to offset cuts in other areas.

A statement from DCLG said £1bn of the £3.8bn would be paid based on the achievement of “local results”. It said this was a bid to “stimulate real change”.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • How will anyone be able to tell if social services authorities are using NHS funding to compensate for or even anticipate cuts made to local government budgets.

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