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LGA urges for social care to have ‘equal footing’ to NHS to close funding gap

Historic underfunding of adult social care is impacting on inpatient services, the LGA has warned.

The remarks come following today’s release of the National Audit Office’s report: ‘Reducing emergency admissions,’ which revealed that emergency admissions grew by 24% from 2007-08 to 2016-17.

Between 2013-14 and 2016-17 the cost of emergency admissions rose by 2.2% from £13.4bn to £13.7bn, while emergency admissions increased by 7% during the same period.

Over the last four years there has been an increase in emergency admissions in the over 65s of 12%, but demographic changes account for only just over half of this rise.

The report argues that there are several challenges in managing emergency admissions, including capacity in the community to prevent emergency admissions and a rise in the number of emergency readmissions.

According to the NAO the capacity in the community to prevent emergency admissions does not currently meet demand, and as of October 2017 there was no clear plan for how the £10bn that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) estimates was spent on community health care could be better used to manage demand.

Healthwatch England has estimated that emergency readmissions have risen by 22.8% between 2012-13 and 2016-17, which it says raises questions about the appropriateness of some decisions to discharge and the support provided to help people recuperate.

Cllr Linda Thomas, vice chair of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, said: “Councils are working closely with the NHS to avoid unnecessary admissions to hospital through better self-management of conditions, better community support and better advice and information.

“However, due to historic underfunding, the adult social care system is under significant pressure and community based services are being reduced, which is impacting on inpatient services. This reduced government funding means councils have had to spend less on key prevention work – £64m less in the past year.”

She explained that the LGA has argued for a focus on preventing hospital admissions rather than focusing “disproportionately” on delayed discharges of care.

Thomas called for urgent funding for councils to invest in prevention measures which will help to reduce public costs.

“Social care needs to be put on an equal footing with the NHS and government needs to address immediate pressures as part of the £2.3bn funding gap facing social care by 2020,” she continued.

“A whole-system approach to health and social care – which recognises that community based support, including adult social care, helps to prevent hospital admission - is needed to ensure that people are adequately supported through their patient journey.”

The NAO has recommended that the DHSC links hospital activity data with primary, community health care and social care data in order to enable health and social care practitioners to make the most informed decision about whether a patient requires emergency hospital treatment.

Top image: sturti

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