NHS commissioners are freezing the fees they pay providers to look after vulnerable adults, threatening to put the care home sector into greater financial difficulty, it has been claimed.
Care England said today that at least 10 clinical commissioning groups had decided on a 0% fee offer for care home residents for 2018-19, meaning they will pay no more in fees than the previous year.
“Decisions by some CCGs make absolutely no sense at all”
The organisation, the largest representing the private care sector, warned that the number of CCGs offering 0% could be higher than 10, because many were yet to agree their fees.
The fee freeze does not take account the rising costs for care homes from higher National Minimum Wage rates and increased nurse pay, according to Care England.
The result is that vulnerable people may not get the care they need, said Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England.
“Decisions by some CCGs make absolutely no sense at all,” he said. “Zero per cent fee decisions result in vulnerable people at risk of ending up in hospital and not in care settings within their communities.
“This is exactly what the NHS is trying to avoid,” he said. “Once again we call for a long term holistic plan by looking at the bigger picture.”
Professor Green said care providers wanted to work with CCGs to find a solution. “There are of course pockets of excellent practice and there need to be the mechanisms in place to replicate these throughout the country. But this calls for providers, CCGs and commissioners to work together,” he said.
Under government rules, the NHS is responsible for arranging and funding care for individuals who are not in hospital and have been assessed as having a primary health need via NHS Continuing Health Care (CHC).
Professor Martin Green
It is down to CCGs to set the fee rate, although they also have a legal obligation to pay a rate that is fair. Discussions between NHS England and the care home sector are said to be ongoing.
“NHS England recognises the issue,” said Jonathan Gardam, senior policy officer at Care England. “But to say whether they are able to make rapid progress on this is a different matter,” he said.
If no progress is made, the fear is that even more care homes will have to close, warned Mr Gardam, who added: “This isn’t about idle threats, it’s reality.”
The 10 CCGs currently offering 0% fee increases are Camden, Haringey, Islington, Oxford, Waltham Forest, Stafford and Surrounds, Cannock Chase, South East Staffordshire and Seisdon Peninsula, North Staffordshire, Stoke on Trent.