Headlines: November 15th, 2002

Local councils, heads of social services departments and health service representatives have joined forces to express concerns over the practical implications of the Community Care (Delayed Discharges) Bill.The Local Government Association, Association of Directors of Social Services and the NHS Confederation have issued a joint statement emphasising their shared commitment to end the misery caused by delayed discharge from hospital. But they highlight the need to ensure the proposals do not undermine existing relationships between local councils and the NHS and to protect funding for older people’s services.

They also question the Government’s proposal to bring in the changes within six months, saying this would cause practical difficulties. In the statement they point to Sweden where similar measures took two years to introduce.

The statement warns of the danger of creating “adversarial relationships rather than co-operation between health and local councils’ social services” by undermining trust.

Sir Jeremy Beecham, Chair of the LGA said the Government should be in no doubt that proposals to charge local councils for delayed discharges could undermine levels of care councils provided to older people. “What the Government does not recognise is that there are many reasons for the delays and many solutions to this issue – but fining local councils is not one of  them,” he said.

David Behan, President of the ADSS said the joint statement was a reflection of the strength of concerns about the proposals and Dr Gill Morgan, Chief Executive of The NHS Confederation, said, “We have a number of real concerns about how the scheme will operate in practice and so we are working actively with the Government, the LGA and the ADSS to ensure that any proposals enhance services for older people and the partnerships between local government and the NHS.”

The three bodies believe the key to tackling delayed discharge lies in an incentives regime spanning all local agencies, with joint targets and a shared performance management framework.