HEREFORDSHIRE Council is urging the government to release essential funding to ensure vulnerable residents continue to be supported.

The Better Care funding amounts to £150million for the West Midlands, of which Herefordshire receives £4.5million.

But the government announced in July that local councils would be required to meet a new national target by the end of September to reduce the proportion of NHS beds unnecessarily occupied due to delayed discharges from hospital to 3.5 per cent.

If councils fail to meet this target, NHS England has indicated that it will not release the funding.

Councillor Paul Rone, Herefordshire Council cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: “Our adult social care service works hard to ensure older, vulnerable residents can be safely discharged from hospital, at the right time, with the correct level of support in place.

“If this essential government funding is not released, the services provided to support residents to live safe, healthy and independent lives will be severely affected and as winter approaches, it could have a drastic impact on local people.

"It will also significantly increase the pressure on our local NHS service, meaning the delayed hospital discharges target will never be achieved."

The funding is used for a range of essential services to support vulnerable residents to safely leave hospital, including home care, residential/ nursing care and reablement, all of which directly support NHS services.

Since the start of 2017, a sustained effort by councils has already led to a significant reduction in the number of people delayed in hospital, because they are waiting for social care.

Cllr Rone added: “We are therefore urging the government to provide immediate assurance that local councils will receive their funding in full, so as to ensure our county’s most vulnerable residents continue to be supported and protected.

"It’s simply unacceptable to change the rules partway through the year and threaten to withhold money that had previously been promised.”

Herefordshire Council, alongside ten other local councils in the West Midlands, has written to the Secretary of State for Health.

At a Wye Valley Trust meeting this month the trust's chief executive, Glen Burley, said they are not going to achieve the 3.5 per cent figure in the timescale.

July saw 7.8 per cent of all available bed days lost to delayed transfer of care.