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Inspectors sent to 12 struggling local areas to improve health and social care systems

The CQC has been instructed to undertake a programme of local system reviews of health and social care in 12 failing local authority areas by the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department of Health.

Inspectors will target areas that are failing to provide enough home care spaces and community care services in an effort to ease pressure on hospitals and free up bed space.

The move was announced last night in Parliament by health secretary Jeremy Hunt, who said: “No one should stay in hospital longer than necessary.

“It undermines people’s dignity and reduces their quality of life while putting pressure on our hospitals and wasting taxpayers’ money.

“These new measures will ensure local authorities and local NHS partners play their part in tackling this issue to improve community transfers and ensure every patient has a health and care system that works for them.”

Specifically, the CQC will look at how people move between health and social care, including delayed transfers of care and focusing in particular on patients aged over 65.

The review will not include mental health services or specialist commissioning; however, it will investigate the experience of people living with dementia as they pass through the system.

“People should be able to expect good, safe care when they need it, regardless of how this care is delivered,” said David Behan, chief executive of the CQC.

“And yet we know there is wide variation in how health and social care systems work together, with some local systems working together effectively to ensure people get the right care, while others struggle to do so – these reviews will seek to examine why these levels of variation exist.

“Our intention is that the review findings will highlight what is working well and where there are opportunities for improving how the system works, enabling the sharing of good practice and identifying where additional support is needed to secure better outcomes for people using services.”

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, also commented: “Our recent report, Winter Warning, showed the additional money announced in the budget for social care was not flowing to support the NHS as consistently as intended.

“It is therefore encouraging that senior ministers have focused on this issue, which requires genuine local partnership and support to make the best use of the money.”

Hopson also stated that both the recent ADASS budget survey and his organisation’s own report had showed that only one in three local authorities were currently planning to prioritise reducing social care-related NHS delayed transfers of care.

“We are pleased there are now specific targets for each local authority, which will be closely monitored,” he continued. “And we welcome the rapid CQC review of 12 areas to see how well they are working at the health and social care boundary. However we await detail of how this will work.”

But the NHS Providers CEO warned that this was the only the first step towards fixing the UK’s ailing health and social care services.

“Senior health service leaders have about a month in which to make a decision on whether there is sufficient capacity in the NHS to deal with next winter’s risks, and if not, to do something about it,” he concluded. “We have called for a £350m investment now to cope with pressures in the coming winter.”

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