The county council is effectively “blackmailing” the NHS by slashing funding to a team which prevents hospital bed blockers, according to the opposition’s finance chief.
On Friday it was revealed the hefty cuts planned at County Hall for the 2015/16 year are about to change – after the authority revealed it will not be able to meet the £65 million cuts target.
Papers released this week show it is on course to make £30 million of those savings, but there is now no guarantee the remaining £35 million is achievable.
At the cabinet meeting on Monday, the authority proposed a host of new measures to balance the books – including stripping £650,000 from its discharge team, which works to help patients leave hospital with a care package in place.
But already it is understood the NHS has concerns about the measure, which some say could only lead to more bed-blocking at Northampton and Kettering general hospitals.
Labour’s cabinet member for finance, Councillor Mick Scrimshaw (Lab, Northall), said: “The report actively admits this will cause extra bed blocking.
“This will cause more cost to the public purse, because the cost will be picked up by the NHS.
“They’re effectively blackmailing the NHS, forcing them to stump up extra funds.”
His opposite number, the cabinet member for finance, Councillor Robin Brown (Con, Woodford and Weedon), said the proposals put forward involve “tough decisions” but said there has been a continued effort to ensure resources are directed at “those most in need”.
Among the other revised cuts, there will be another review of adults on independent care budgets, which the council says will save a further £1.1 million.
A spokesman for Northampton General Hospital said it would be passing on its concerns about the review of the discharge team budget changes to the county council.
Kettering General Hospital chief executive David Sissling said: “We will of course be extremely concerned about any proposals which have a negative impact on the quality of care and support provided to local people.”
Opposition member, Councillor Danielle Stone, (Lab, Abington and Phippsville) said bed blocking is already a “huge problem for our hospitals.” and said a further reduction in the discharge team will increase the problem and is likely to send the hospitals into a “crisis”.
The proposals will now be subject to consultation.