The recently outlined Better Care Fund policy framework sets out the conditions and funding for the BCF in 2021 to 2022. It is one of the Government’s national vehicles for driving health and social care integration, requiring clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and local government to agree a joint plan, owned by the Health and Wellbeing Board. These are joint plans for using pooled budgets to support integration, governed by an agreement under section 75 of the NHS Act 2006.
At a glance, the new policy framework confirms:
- that due to the ongoing pressures in the health and care system, there will be minimal change to the BCF in 2021 to 2022, with a focus on building on progress made during the Covid-19 pandemic, strengthening the integration of commissioning and delivery of services;
- there will be a continued focus on improving how and when people are discharged from hospital;
- the non-elective admissions metric is being replaced by a metric on avoidable admissions to better support the focus of joint health and social care work to support people to live independently in their own home and prevent avoidable stays in hospital. The continued focus on improving how and when people are discharged from hospital is explained in national condition 4 of the policy framework; and
- a full planning round in 2021 to 2022 will be undertaken, with areas required to formally agree BCF plans and fulfil national accountability requirements will be set out, including details of the national planning and assurance processes.
So, while the new BCF remains largely unchanged from previous years, the policy framework does acknowledge that upcoming changes set out in the Health and Care Bill, will likely impact longer-term system thinking and planning. It says that:
“The government will work with stakeholders to ensure future BCF arrangements support the proposals in the Health and Care Bill, outcomes from the Spending Review and explore with NHS England options to introduce incentives linked to improved discharge outcomes in each area, supporting local accountability for outcomes.”
Announcements made today (7th September 2021) regarding social care funding are also likely to impact longer-term system thinking and planning, if the proposed changes come into force.
If you would like to discuss any of the issues raised here or would like support with new or existing section 75 agreements, do get in touch with Charlotte Lewis.