Fears over health fund

A GOVERNMENT fund created to join up health and social care services but based on performance could prove a poisoned apple for patients and the most vulnerable in Swindon.

The £3.8bn Better Care Fund, to be launched in 2015, will pool the budgets of clinical commissioning groups and councils to enable a much closer partnership between the bodies, increase community support and ensure the elderly and disabled do not fall between the cracks of both systems.

Under the grant, Swindon’s Clinical Commissioning Group, which buys healthcare for the town, and the borough council will receive £12,675,000 in 2015/2016.

A total of six conditions will be attached to the Better Care Fund, previously known as the Integration Transformation Fund.

These include providing social care seven days a week, better data sharing, and producing joint assessments.

In order to receive the funding they are entitled to each year, Swindon CCG and the council will also have to achieve regional and national targets, such as the reduction in avoidable hospital admissions.

Failing to reach 75 per cent of its target could mean losing part of an already squeezed budget.

Sue Wald, the head of commissioning for children and adults at Swindon Council, said improving standards in some areas may prove a challenge.

“There are long-term conditions and we will be challenged by areas like dementia and diabetes,” she said.

“We know that dementia is increasing as people are living longer. But we are already meeting most of these national conditions.

“The fund has created some debate nationally because of the payment by result condition. We should not underestimate the significant risks.

“The money will be paid if we achieve 75 per cent of our target. If we don’t, there will be an improvement plan with NHS England. It is full of risks because we are a small authority. But we have discussed the implications for our partners.”

The prospect of placing healthcare in the town at risk weighed heavily on some members at a meeting of the health and wellbeing board on Wednesday.

Coun Brian Mattock (Con, Old Town) told his colleagues he was worried about the fund’s payment by result proviso.

“What concerns me is that we could receive a negative amount if we don’t achieve the performance element,” he said “This will be challenging but from what I understand it seems achievable.”

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