The Better Care Fund (BCF) is a national Department of Health initiative that required the pooling budgets between local authorities and CCGs to catalyse an increase in the pace and scale of joint working and furthering integration of health and care.
In 2015/16, the government required pooling of at least £3.8 billion - made up largely of existing funding that had previously transferred to local authorities or was in CCGs' baselines. Local authorities and CCGs were required to develop local BCF plans, to be signed off by Health and Wellbeing Boards, that were subjected to national assurance. The total amount covered by these plans nationally is £5.3 billion.
The government's manifesto committed to continue to integrate health and social care, through the BCF. In June 2015, we called on the government to clarify by the summer the approach to the BCF in 2016/17, to enable effective local planning for how to use that year to make further progress towards a goal of wholescale integration within the life of this Parliament.
Following a policy change in July 2014, local plans had to be revised with a particular focus on reducing emergency admissions to hospitals. In addition, they were required to cover
- how local adult care services would be protected
- delivery of seven day services health and social care to support patients being discharged from hospital and prevent unnecessary hospital admissions at weekends
- better data sharing between health and social care
- ensuring a joint approach to assessment and care planning and the appointment of a lead professional to oversee integrated packages of care
- securing agreement on the consequential impact of the planned changes on the acute sector in the NHS.
The government and NHS England's policy requirements for the BCF and information about implementation support available to areas can be found here.
We worked closely with NHS England to ensure local government perspectives were reflected in the assurance processes they undertook for plans. We will continue to do this as plans are implemented through 2015/16.
The London Health and Care Integration Collaborative is helping to support local planning and implementation of the BCF through bringing people together to tackle complex problems and share best practice and experiences.
Building on 2015/16
In March 2015, we published a 7 Point Plan setting out key steps we believe are needed to support BCF implementation and enable the experiences of 2015/16 to be used as a foundation for future years.
As part of this, we highlighted the need for early clarity about what would happen to the BCF in 2016/17 and flagged that we would be developing more detailed proposals on this in the coming months.
In June 2015, we published our Core Design Principles for BCF in 2016/17 and called on the government to clarify quickly their ambitions for how the programme should develop in the year - setting out a realistic process and timetable to enable ambitious, robust, joint plans to be developed by local partners.