Philip Hammond, the UK government’s chief finance minister, has promised £2bn for adult social care in England over the next three years to help councils provide high quality care while easing pressure on the NHS.
Delivering the ‘spring budget’ on 8 March 2017, the chancellor told Parliament that the social care system “is clearly under pressure. And this in turn puts pressure on our NHS”.
The funding would enable older patients to be “discharged when they are ready, freeing up precious NHS beds, and ensuring that elderly people are receiving the care they need”.
Hammond also noted that £1bn of the funding will be available in 2017–2018, which will allow local authorities to “act now” to commission new care packages.
He said that the government will also publish a green paper on the future financing of social care in 2017.
Clive Betts, chair of the parliamentary communities and local government committee, says the £2bn commitment for adult social care is welcome but that the £1bn to be made available for 2017–2018 falls short of the £1.5bn the committee recommended to plug the gap in funding in its pre-budget report published on 4 March 2017.
Betts adds that the government should provide “explicit confirmation that the funding today is new money”.
“From the budget documents it is not clear this is the case,” he says.
Hammond also promised an additional £425m for the NHS in the next three years. This will include £325m for the first set of the “best” local sustainability and transformation plans (STPs), which aim to improve patient services in local regions.
Hammond added that he is expecting to announce a multi-year capital programme to support implementation of approved high quality STPs as part of the autumn 2017 budget.
The remaining £100m for the NHS will be invested in A&E departments in 2017–2018 to help them manage demand ahead of next winter and help patients get to primary care faster, Hammond said. For instance, the money could provide more on-site GP facilities and more space in A&E units for patient assessment.
“Experience has shown that onsite GP triage in A&E departments can have a significant and positive impact on A&E waiting times,” the chancellor said. “I am therefore making a further £100m of capital available immediately for up to 100 new triage projects at English hospitals in time for next winter.”
Commenting on the budget, Robbie Turner, director for England at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, says: “For STPs to be truly transformational they need to include pharmacists as part of their delivery plans. Today we will be writing to all STP leads to emphasise the strategic benefits of including pharmacy, not least because medicines are one of the biggest investments in any STP budget.”
He adds: “The strategic benefits of having pharmacists in A&E departments has already been demonstrated and we’d like to see further inclusion of pharmacists as part of the multidisciplinary team in A&E.”