The leader of Kent County Council has urged the government to use extra investment in the NHS to boost spending on community care to avert the spending crisis affecting hospitals.
Cllr Paul Carter said it was a “no brainer” as preventative treatment could alleviate the pressures on Kent’s A&E hospitals, which together currently have a combined deficit of some £100m.
The government has announced a £20bn in extra annual funding for the NHS - the equivalent of £349m a week up to by 2023-24 - but has faced some criticism over where the extra cash would come from.
Mr Carter said he wanted the government to ‘dramatically reverse’ the way it allocates money, arguing boosting investment in primary care would ease the pressure on acute hospitals.
“What I’d like to see is a greater use of the NHS budget for primary care, social care and local community care to try and keep patients - particularly the elderly and frail - within their community and in their own homes to avoid hospitalisation," he said.
"The business case is in my opinion a no-brainer because it will end up making much better use of the money for the NHS.
“The investment in the NHS is inextricably linked to social care. I’d like to see a percentage of the new money ring-fenced to invest in local care, by which I mean community care and primary care.
“If you look at the track record over the last five or six years, although more money has gone to the NHS, a smaller proportion of that money is going in to primary care and community care and that needs reversing dramatically if we are to reduce the avoidable pressure on acute hospitals."
He added that he hoped the government was “on board” with the idea of devolving more powers over how the NHS budget should be spent.
He said: “I have been banging this drum for a long time - every pound that is invested in enhanced primary and community care and adult care diminishes the pressure on hospital budgets.”
Asked if he was concerned at the scale of the combined deficits of Kent hospitals, he said: “Kent is not alone but it is a big problem.
"Clearly hospitals need to be run in the most efficient and cost-effective way and part of the solution is what I call the hospital avoidance industry: by investing more money into primary care.”
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said there would have to be an "increased burden of taxation" to fund the 3.4% average annual rises in NHS England's budget over five years.