A damning report by the National Audit Office (NAO) says the £5.3bn Better Care Fund has failed to relieve pressure on the NHS.
While health and social care services integration has increased, the NAO says the Fund has not provided value for money and failed to reduce hospital activity.
Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “Integrating the health and social care sectors is a significant challenge in normal times, let alone times when both sectors are under such severe pressure.
“So far, benefits have fallen far short of plans, despite much effort. It will be important to learn from the over-optimism of such plans when implementing the much larger NHS sustainability and transformation plans.
“The Departments do not yet have the evidence to show that they can deliver their commitment to integrated services by 2020, at the same time as meeting existing pressures on the health and social care systems.”
Hospital admissions increased by 87,000 in 2015-16 against a planned reduction of 106,000, costing £311m more than planned.
Days lost to delayed transfers of care rose by 185,000 against a planned reduction of 293,000, costing £146m more than planned.
On a positive note, 90% of local areas strongly agreed that joint working had improved.
Permanent admissions of people aged 65 and over to residential and nursing care homes were reduced and the number of people still at home 91 days after discharge into reablement or rehabilitation also rose.
The Department of Health and the Department for Communities and Local Government identified misaligned financial incentive, workforce challenges and reluctance to share information as barriers to integration.
The report also includes that NHS England’s target of achieving savings of £900m through seven new care models may be “optimistic”.
In addition, the NAO says there is no evidence that greater integration leads to financial savings or reduced hospital activity.
Professor Martin Green OBE, chief executive of Care England, told Care Home Professional: “The NAO report is further evidence that the government has no clear or strategic policy on social care, and soundbites and piecemeal initiatives do not work.
“The NAO report clearly shows that there are cultural, as well as structural issues that need to be addressed. If we are going to have a paradigm shift in the way in which services are delivered, this will take a significant amount of time, require cultural change, and needs to be underpinned by secure and appropriate funding.
“The NOA report is yet another warning to the government that they must deliver a clear national policy on social care, and not leave this important issue to the vagaries of localism. “