The government has confirmed it is to renew the Better Care Fund, the method for NHS and councils to plan health and care services better for the current financial year of 2019-20. The Better Care Fund (BCF) is a programme spanning both the NHS and local government which seeks to join-up health and care services, so that people can manage their own health and wellbeing, and live independently in their communities for as long as possible.
The BCF has been created to improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our society, placing them at the centre of their care and support, and providing them integrated health and social care services, resulting in an improved experience and better quality of life.
Ministers confirmed at the weekend that the Better Care Fund will be renewed for 2019 to 2020, bringing the funding to more than £6.4bn.
The newly published planning requirements will reduce the overall reporting burden on local partnerships while improving the measurement and effectiveness of the fund, they said.
It brings together ring-fenced budgets from clinical commissioning group allocations (around £3.8bn) and funding paid directly to local government, including the Disabled Facilities Grant, the improved Better Care Fund and the Winter Pressures grant.
By encouraging better joint planning between councils and NHS organisations, it is designed to enable people to leave hospital sooner to get the care they need at home.
The government says that social care related delays to patients being sent home from hospital have been nearly halved since February 2017, following government investment in integrating health and social care – the equivalent to freeing up almost 1,200 NHS beds.
The fund is said to have been effective in:
- helping to keep people living independently at home
- providing joined-up reablement services
- reducing delayed discharges across the system
- achieving closer working between the NHS and social care services.
Care minister Caroline Dinenage said: “No one should be stuck in hospital when their treatment has ended – it’s not fair to patients or their families and places huge pressure on our hardworking NHS staff.
“The Better Care Fund is an important part of ending these unnecessary waits in hospital, joining up councils and the health service for the benefit of patients.
“Thanks to this government’s multi-billion pound investment the fund has significantly reduced delays to discharging patients. We must continue to work together to improve services and give people the best possible experiences of care, a crucial part of the NHS Long Term Plan.”
Local government minister Rishi Sunak said: “We’re determined to improve the way social care services and the NHS work together to help society’s most vulnerable people.
“The Better Care Fund has made a real difference by enabling more people to be cared for at home sooner after treatment, freeing up much-needed hospital beds. This is testament to the hard work of local authorities, the NHS and social care providers working together.
“We remain committed to supporting local collaboration so that health and care services continue to improve.”