Northamptonshire County Council could remove £650,000 from '˜bed blocking' service as part of new cuts to public services

Hefty cuts planned to Northamptonshire County Council this year are about to change - after the authority revealed it will not be able to meet the £65 million target without reducing more services.

Friday, 29th July 2016, 1:40 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 8:25 pm
Members of the public, union members and service users protested against the planned £65m worth of cuts to the county council outside County Hall in February. Now more cuts are on the horizon.

The authority agreed a round of cuts back in April to axe £24 million from adult social care services, stop the Nourish school meals service and shut Ecton Brook Care home among a number of measures.

Though papers released today show it is on course to make £30 million of those savings, officers say there is no guarantee the remaining £35 million is achievable. This, papers suggest is because of an ever increasing demand on children’s and adult services.

At the cabinet meeting on Monday, the authority will propose a host of new measures to balance the books - including stripping £650,000 from its Discharge Team, which works to help patients leave hospital with a care package in place.

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Already it is understood the NHS has deep concerns about the measure, which some say could only lead to more bed-blocking at Northampton and Kettering General Hospitals.

Cabinet member for finance, Councillor Robin Brown (Con, Woodford and Weedon) said: “The proposals put forward today of course involve tough decisions but at the heart of them is our determination to make sure we fulfil our statutory duties and do this in a way that demonstrates fair and equitable use of taxpayers money.

“We will continue to ensure our resources are directed at those most in need and are delivering the best value for money.”

The proposals published today will be discussed at a cabinet meeting on Monday and if agreed work will then take place to “consult those affected by the them,” a council spokesperson said.

Leader of the council Councillor Heather Smith said: “When I became leader I made it clear that delivery of one of the toughest ever budget challenges was one of my top priorities.

“Today’s report shows just how serious I was in saying that and shows just how far we have already come in doing just that.

“We are already able to say that we have delivered or are set to deliver more than £30 million worth of savings and we are only a little over a quarter of the way through the year. In those areas where difficulties exist we are now looking at other options to make sure our budget savings remain on track.”

There were protests outside of County Hall when the Tory-run council ratified the 2016/17 budget back in April and the latest news is likely to be unpopular.

The new savings proposals will see another review of adults on independent care budgets, which it says will save a further 1.1 million.

A spokeswoman for Northampton General Hospital said it would be passing on its concerns about the budget changes to the county council.

She said: “We will be reviewing the council’s proposals in detail with our local healthcare partners so we can fully understand the impact for our patients and the services we provide.

“We will, of course, be alerting the cabinet to the potential implications of the proposed budgetary changes to health and social care provision within the county.”

Opposition member, Councillor Danielle Stone, (Lab, Abington and Phippsville) said: “The emergency Cabinet meeting on Monday is being asked to approve steps to find additional savings from the Adult Social Care budget. These savings will affect the timeliness of assessments made for patients preparing to leave hospital and return home.

“These assessments are crucial to ensuring that each vulnerable person gets the care package they need- whether it’s regular visits and caring support, specialist equipment or adaptions to their home.

“The danger here is that this will cause bed blocking. Bed blocking is already a huge problem for our hospitals. A further reduction in the assessment service will increase the problem and is likely to send the hospitals into a crisis.

“The longer people are in hospital the greater the risk of infections and the greater the risk of physical deterioration due to being bed bound.

“What we need is a joined up plan with the NHS and social care working together to ensure timely assessments are made, that vulnerable adults receive the care packages they need, and to prevent the blocking of NHS beds needed by other ill and needy patients.

“It just goes to show that the budget they approved in February was not deliverable.”

A Northamptonshire County Council spokesman said: “We are reviewing options to accelerate transformation of adult care services and bringing about closer integration with health services.

“The review will look at how social care and healthcare complement each other and keep costs affordable and value for money for the taxpayer.

“We are keen to work closely with our partners in the NHS as we explore these options.”