Hospital beds. Only two fifths of patients are discharged when they are ready. There is nowhere for them to go.

The social care system has now entered its most difficult period of the year. Health chiefs warn the system is being stretched beyond what they witnessed during Covid.

How do local authorities meet their statutory duties to those being discharged?

Of scant comfort was the delay to the £500m discharge fund. Announced in mid-September leaders did not get any additional details until a full two months later when Stephen Barclay spoke to the NHS Providers’ annual conference.

Matthew Taylor had previously bemoaned the fact that leaders across the NHS and local authorities hasn’t seen a “single penny” of the promised pot.

The money aims to partly help care services with “at home” support for those most in need. In England the shortfall for the care system is nearer the tune of £4 billion over the next 18 months.

For local authorities and NHS foundation trusts it emphasises the need to form links with central government as soon as a funding announcement is made.

Placing your organisation at the front of the queue with people at DH, DWP and others has never been more important. Working out your key modes of communication and the people who are involved pays dividends. Don’t be shy in making proactive approaches.

The devil of how to spend cash is often buried in the detail of central government guidance. This sort of early engagement can provide intelligence about emerging policy decisions and delivery mechanisms for spending commitments. Then, when the detail is finally published, your organisation and local partners can move quickly to secure it for the people who need it most.

What is more, the central condition of the discharge fund is that local authorities work with Integrated Care Boards throughout. With central government pots becoming ever more ‘placed based’ early engagement with Government will enable you to convene the partners you needs to deliver as soon as possible.

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