Council DTOC reduction targets ‘counterproductive’ to easing pressure on NHS

Councils leaders have today criticised the government for setting “last minute, unrealistic and unachievable targets” for reducing delayed transfers of care (DTOC).

New figures from NHS England for July and August showed that DTOCs had actually gone down from 184,578 in July 2016 to 181,692.

This amounts to a daily average of 5,861 DTOC beds in July 2017, which is a drop from the same time last year when the figure stood at 5,954. 

But local authorities have responded by repeating the message that council targets to reduce DTOC days were not likely to ease pressure on struggling hospitals.

“The sudden and last-minute setting of unrealistic and unachievable targets for councils to reduce delayed transfers of care by government is unlikely to be effective in relieving pressure on the NHS,” said Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board.

“Across the country nearly six out of 10 people delayed in hospital are unable to leave because they require further NHS services, with just over a third awaiting support from council social care.”

“Councils are doing all they can to get people out of hospital and back into the community quickly and safely,” she explained. “But instead of treating the symptoms of the pressures on hospitals, councils want to be able to focus on the root causes, and to stop people ending up in a hospital bed in the first place.”

The LGA Community Wellbeing Board chair added that the threat of reviewing councils’ funding allocations for social care if these targets are not met is unacceptable to local government, as it takes resources from where they are most needed.

“Even worse, NHS England is threatening to withhold core funding for vital social care services where councils have not agreed to the national target, even where this target is undeliverable,” Cllr Seccombe argued.

“The £2 billion announced in the Spring Budget was a step in the right direction, yet councils still face an annual social care funding gap of £2.3bn by 2020.

“Councils need to be given the freedom and flexibility to spend the additional funding for social care in the places where they feel it will be most effective. Targets on delayed transfers are hampering this approach.”

She also described the targets as “command-and-control performance management carried out at a national level which ignores local need”.

This could leave many councils facing the absurd situation of failing to meet an unattainable target, losing their funding, and on top of this, potentially being fined by hospitals, she explained. “This will be counterproductive. Far from improving things, this could make the social care crisis worse, heap more pressure on the NHS and result in more people not getting the care and support they need.”

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