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£2m handout to help free up hospital beds

KENT is to receive an extra £2.1million from the Government to help ease problems caused by bed blocking this year. The announcement by ministers comes only a fortnight after council leaders warned a chronic shortage of private care beds was threatening to cause “meltdown” in the county.

KCC is to get a total of £2,116,000 as part of a two-year £300million handout to local authorities across the country designed to deal with the bed blocking problems stemming from a shortage of care home spaces. But the cash injection has failed to impress the ruling Conservative administration at County Hall, which said the money would not solve its cash crisis.

Cllr Peter Lake (Con), cabinet member for social care, said a one-off payment would end up creating more difficulties. He stressed: “This sort of money does not help the situation. It may mean we can afford to pay higher prices this year but what will happen next year when people are still in these homes and we still have to meet the higher prices? Where will the money be for that?”

KCC says that the £2.1million represents a less than one per cent increase in the amount it can afford to pay for private beds.

It called on the government to give it more money as part of its overall budget next year to reflect the higher prices it had to pay. Social services chiefs in the county have estimated they need at least £7million more to bridge a funding gap caused by rising private sector prices.

Ministers have denied the money is a short-term fix. They pointed out it was linked to councils working more closely with the independent sector about placing older people in care homes.

Local government minister Stephen Byers said: “Our contribution will enable local authorities to help put in place measures that will free up hospital beds which can then be used for their intended purpose – the treatment of patients.”

Labour opposition leader at County Hall Cllr Mike Eddy welcomed the cash boost.

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