Norman Lamb raises problem of £7m funding gap for Norfolk’s social care with government minister

Photo credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

Photo credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire - Credit: PA

A Norfolk MP has questioned the 'understandable yet disastrous' decision by local health bosses to withhold £7m in funds from social care services after raising the issue with a government minister today.

Norman Lamb, the North Norfolk MP and former care minister in the Coalition government, described ongoing negotiations between Norfolk's five clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and Norfolk County Council as 'deeply worrying'.

The issue, first reported by this newspaper last week, arose when the CCGs (Norwich, South Norfolk, West Norfolk, North Norfolk, and Great Yarmouth and Waveney) all decided against making 'discretionary payments' to the county's Better Care Fund.

Set up in April 2015, the Better Care Fund is a pot of money which is spent on integrating health and social care services (a key aim for the government), which is funded jointly by the CCGs and Norfolk County Council.

Last year the CCGs provided more than £50m to the fund, of which around £7m was a non-compulsory payment made in a bid to reduce unplanned hospital admissions.

This year the CCGs, which combined have to deliver savings of more than £50m, have told council chiefs they cannot afford to fund the £7m payment – putting services under threat.

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Speaking in the House of Commons today, Mr Lamb said there was a very real risk that elderly people and people with disabilities would miss out on services that could be cut as a result of the funding-gap.

'The whole point of the Better Care Fund, which I helped establish, was to invest more in joined up care which prevents people becoming more unwell and ending up in hospital.

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'The decision by the CCGs is, in one sense, understandable, because they face an impossible financial challenge.

'But it is disastrous for vital support services for frail elderly people and disabled people.

'The ridiculous thing is that it will end up with more people being admitted to hospital with all the disruption to people's lives that that involves and it will cost more to the NHS.'

Mr Lamb asked Greg Clark, the minister for communities and local government, how NHS England (which regulates CCGs) and the Department of Health were working together to ensure social care is protected.

Mr Clark replied: 'The gentleman (Norman Lamb) knows from his experience at the Department of Health how important it is to make sure that the social care system and the health care system are joined up.

'Part of the integration of health and social care is to make sure that these people – whether they are patients of the NHS, or whether they are cared for by local authorities – can have the best care available delivered in the most efficient way.'

In a statement to this newspaper last week, a spokesman for the council said: 'Given the pressures on the NHS and the county council this is a very difficult situation.

'There is no doubt the loss of this money would have an impact above and beyond the savings we are already committed to.'

The five CCGs told us last week: 'Discussions over finances continue in an amicable and constructive way to reach agreement, with all parties recognising the very great pressures that each are facing.

'We share a determination to ensure patient and client services are protected as far as possible through efficient and integrated working.'

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