Response to the National Audit Office’s report on the Better Care Fund

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Responding to the publication of the National Audit Office’s report on the Better Care Fund, Richard Humphries, Assistant Director, Policy at The King’s Fund said:

‘The introduction of the Better Care Fund at a time of mounting financial pressures on the NHS and social care carries significant risks. Although the recent changes made to the operation of the Fund go some way to easing concerns about its impact on the NHS, they represent a substantial shift of risk back to local authorities and leave local areas just five months to prepare to implement their plans.

‘Given the tight timescales and absence of any new money in the Fund, local areas are being expected to achieve too much, with too little, too soon. Achieving the headline ambition of reducing emergency admissions by more than 3 per cent would require a dramatic reversal in demand for hospital services which has been rising inexorably in recent years.

‘While we welcome the Better Care Fund as an important step towards a single budget for health and social care, it is not a substitute for the new funding needed to invest in essential changes to services. A new transformation fund is needed to help meet the costs of developing new community-based services and cover double running costs during the transition between old and new models of care.

‘In the long term, as the Barker Commission recommended, a new settlement is needed to place health and social care on a sustainable footing.’