NHS Cutbacks Hit Social Care

Oxfordshire’s social services are creaking at the seams because of the NHS funding crisis, councillors claim. Conservative county councillors are set to complain to the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust that changes to its services are putting the social care department under extreme pressure. Members of the Tory-run council’s cabinet have called for a halt to cuts in community-based NHS services.

They were told that the knock-on effects meant the council had already spent £250,000 more on social care at this stage of the financial year than projected. It is almost certain this figure will more than double by the end of March next year as demand for council-run services grows due to NHS cuts.

Cabinet member for adult social care Jim Couchman said: “The impact on social services of the reductions in funding are considerable. Some of the NHS service changes and proposals are positive and will lead to better services for patients.

“But some of the changes being introduced are apparently simply to save the ORH money and apparently with no consideration of the impact on other organisations, such as social services.

“The NHS should discuss such huge changes with ourselves and other organisations and with the public.”

At the cabinet meeting, councillors were told:
– A joint primary care trust and council budget used to buy care home beds for the elderly was £300,000 overspent by the end of May and planned expenditure for September was now being used
– An NHS fund to pay for long-term care beds was not increased in line with inflation this year, putting more pressure on the same budget
– The ORH is reducing the average length of time people spend in hospital, leading to increased demand for social care beds-
Some 31 beds in the Radcliffe Infirmary have been closed this year and while PCTs are paying for alternative beds this financial year, there is no commitment for payment to continue next year.

Labour county councillors claimed the Conservatives’ budget for adult social care was being blown off course by a failure to provide enough money.

Before the 2006-07 budget was finalised at the start of the year, Sue Scane, the council’s chief financial officer, warned that the delivery of plans for older people would be “a financial and performance risk to the authority”.

Labour group social care spokesman Barbara Gatehouse said: “The county council has been underfunding social services and letting the NHS bear the cost of keeping people in hospital.

“Now it must face up to its responsibilities and fund the care these people need. This was a very mean budget, based on deeply flawed assumptions – now the flaws are being exposed.”