Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Better Care Fund - Mission Impossible?

The government having just made the biggest re-organisation of the NHS is now insisting that local health and social care economies now embark on another! 

Health and Wellbeing Board which only came into existence 12 months ago are now developing plans to use the Better Care Fund.   This fund is drawn from existing funds from health and social care commissioners. The total could be around £4 billion for England and in Buckinghamshire the fund will be nearly £100 million. This is three times the size of the fund that other areas are implementing!  Are they being too ambitious?

What will this fund do?

The Better Care Fund is to be used to integrate health and social care services, especially for older people.  It is hoped that this integration will reduce costs and improve the quality of care (in that order).

Many of us have asked for a closer integration of health and social care and so we should be welcoming this new work.  But should the timer scale for developing the project be longer than 12 months?  Can these new organisations, barely out of nappies, successfully implement such a big change in the way services are commissioned?

 Patients, especially those with long term conditions  & the elderly need care and support and they get that support from many different agencies – the NHS, Social services, the voluntary sector, the private sector, families and friends to name a few. Currently some care is called health care and some is called social care. But patients don’t really care what it is called. Or who commissions & funds it.  What they want is for it to be provided without any gaps, when and where they need it.  

They don’t want to have to go to one lot of people for one sort of care and then go through another assessment for more support! They just want to go to one point to ask for help.

So this Better Care Fund sounds as if it a good idea. But some say it will not save money and will not improve services.  They say there is no evidence that it will achieve these objectives.

I am also concerned that locally the public and patients have not been involved in the design of this new service.   As usual we will be involved and consulted with in the middle of the process rather than at the beginning.   Who is to carry out that involvement?  It is Healthwatch Buckinghamshire who are virtually unknown to the population of Buckinghamshire.   Will they be able to carry out a meaningful engagement with the public, let alone real involvement in the design of the new service?

Finally who is going to manage this fund, who will monitor the quality (and quantity) of the care? Who will be accountable?

It’s a mystery!

You can see the latest update on Buckinghamshire Health and Wellbeing Board's plans here

Here is a review of the evidence recently published by the University of York which suggests that these schemes should be rolled out cautiously and may increase overall costs.

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