Trowers & Hamlins

Sign up

Home » Resources » Blog » Armageddon for social care commissioners?

Armageddon for social care commissioners?
Trowers Public Insight

Armageddon for social care commissioners?

Paul McDermott examines whether social care commissioners are being dealt a fair hand and how the new procurement governance will change social care procurement.

The Better Care allocation of £3.8 billion for co-ordinated NHS local authority social care commissioning is a long awaited step in the right direction. If all goes to plan no individual should suffer the indignity of these great public bodies off-loading their responsibilities by pointing the finger of blame at the other for failing to deliver.

Meanwhile other events this summer have increased scepticism about whether social care commissioners are being dealt a fair hand.

The Social Care Act's £72,000 cap on personal financial contributions for care is positive. However commissioners must now track self-funders and will be required to finance those who exceed their lifetime cap. There is anxiety that neither tracking self-funders nor the care provision above that cap have been fully costed. The serious anxieties of local government are frankly summarised by David Finch, the leader of Essex County Council. The Local Government Chronicle reported him bluntly saying, "I think the Care Act could be Armageddon for councils' budgets".

Meanwhile the NHS's Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are also experiencing their own problems. The Health Service Journal's recent survey revealed that 72 CCGs are refusing to tender £2.3 billion worth of community care services. Unless they change course there is a serious risk that those CCGs will steer themselves into the stormy spectre of legal challenges.

Once the new EU Procurement Directive becomes law in England & Wales it will usher in a fundamental cultural change in social care procurement. Commissioners should assume that they will be required to operate more rigorous and competitive procurement exercises than previously was the case. There is also a legal school which maintains that the Care Act has created a new 'market' raising the possibility of associated competition and state aid challenges to social care arrangements.

Social care professionals will rightly debate financial and delivery solutions for social care's graph of doom. There are innovative commissioning solutions which harness technology, partnerships and income generation. We have worked closely with our clients in the sector to assist them achieve their objectives.

Whichever is the right care solution for your commissioner, they should ensure that when they adopt it they side-step legal Armageddon by ensuring that they have taken account of new procurement governance and competition requirements.