03:37PM, Thursday 09 February 2017
A council tax rise of nearly four per cent will not be enough to plug a £13m black hole in the funding for older and physically disabled people in the Royal Borough, according to council figures.
While the borough says it can meet the needs of residents for the next two years, Cllr David Coppinger, cabinet member for Adult Services and Health, believes an ‘integrated’ approach must be adopted in the future.
And he is committed to working with Frimley Health Foundation Trust, which runs Wexham Park and Heatherwood hospitals, to find long-term answers.
The matter was discussed at the Royal Borough’s Adult Services and Health Overview and Scrutiny Panel meeting at Maidenhead Town Hall on Wednesday, February 1.
The borough has an ageing population and spends about 40 per cent of its entire budget for social care on just 2,500 residents.
Cllr Coppinger told the Advertiser: “The over-65 population has increased by 5.6 per cent, and the over-85s by 8.6 per cent in the last two years.
“Plus, it costs around £2,300 a week to provide support for one person with significant learning difficulties.”
The borough received an extra £500,000 from the Better Care Fund, set up to help integrate adult social care services.
However, the National Audit Office said yesterday (Wednesday) attempts to integrate health and social care have so far failed to save money, or reduce hospital admissions in England, and ministers were facing an ‘uphill battle’ trying to improve services through integration.
Cllr Coppinger, though, still believes working with health services and care providers to keep people in their own homes is the most cost effective way forward.
He said: “We set up a falls prevention scheme in 2014 which has been very successful in terms of keeping people out of hospital.
“It costs on average £2,300 a week to keep someone in a hospital bed but only £300-£400 to keep them in a community-based service.”
There are also plans for a ‘Step up Step Down’ facility, a place for patients who are ready to leave hospital but still require support, to help ease the pressure on hospitals.
Dr Adrian Hayter, chairman of the Windsor, Ascot and Maidenhead Clinical Commissioning Group, said while the rise in council tax was a step in the right direction, things needed to be done differently to cope with ever-increasing demand.
He said: “Our vision of care has to change.
“Not everyone just needs medicine; we need to think more about how people are going to be looked after. Plus GPs are having to deal with people with more complex needs in 10-minute appointments.”
Dr Hayter warned of a shortage of GPs as doctors are under increasing pressure to do more with no extra resources.
“Instead of hospitals employing agency workers to staff wards, the money needs to go into community care services,” he said.
Kevin Griffiths, of Age Concern Slough & Berkshire East, said: “Any increase in adult social care funding is to be welcomed. However, small percentage increases will not resolve the much larger crisis in the sector.
“There is a potential danger of exacerbating the situation as any increase in council tax may put pressure on older people’s budgets at a time when many can least afford it.”