Headlines: October 21st, 1997

Frank Dobson, Secretary of State for Health has announced a £300m increase in NHS funding. Some of the new money will go towards removing the bed blocking logjam which has built up because of a funding crisis in Social Service departments. Where the Social Service budget is inadequate to fund the care of a hospital patient who no longer needs medical attention there is no option but to rely on the NHS system, although the cost to the taxpayer is much higher.Following a fact finding tour by Alan Langlands, the Chief Executive of the NHS and Sir Herbert Laming, Chief Inspector of Social Services and their discussions with Health Authority, Trust and Social Services leaders, a plan for dealing with the situation emerged. Frank Dobson then wrote to NHS chairs, social services and housing chairs and leaders of councils emphasising the need to apply best practice. The additional funding is the Government’s part of the deal to resolve the problem.

Mr Dobson said: “The extra money is not just elastoplast for the winter. It is about modernising the NHS for the long term, pioneering new approaches which will bring lasting benefits and help to break down the ‘Berlin Wall’ between health and social services.”

Ways in which the money will be used include reducing delays in discharging patients, for example by improving rehabilitation and recuperation services and funding increased care at home, extra nursing home places and more social services support. Funding will also be targeted at reducing the need for people to be admitted to hospital in the first place, by strengthening primary and community services, by providing more specialist nursing and therapy for people – particularly old people – in their own homes, nursing and residential homes and through improved continence and out of hours services.

The movement of health funding into the social services arena is an element of the Department of Health strategy for focusing on priorities in the NHS.