THE organisation responsible for overseeing Devon’s care provision has reported an overspend of nearly £2.5 million before the end of its financial year.

The Better Care Fund (BCF), established in 2015, helps elderly patients return home after hospital admission.

An update shows Devon may overshoot its target for emergency hospital admissions due to falls and more people are in care homes than hoped, while fewer people than targeted have remained out of hospital for 91 days after admission.

All this is putting pressure on finances, and the fund reported it had spent nearly £2.5 million more than its £131 million budget at the end of February – a month before its financial year ends.

Solveig Wright, Devon County Council’s deputy director for adult commissioning and health, told Devon’s health and wellbeing board: ‘This is the first year ever there was an overspend.

‘This is because it is experiencing a lot more demand and we are using the funding in different ways.’

Ms Wright said any overspend by the BCF has to be split 50:50 between Devon County Council and the Devon Integrated Care Board.

The county is expected to have more people in care homes than targeted, partly caused by the patchy performance of an assessment service that decides when people can return home.

‘We want people to live independently in their own homes without the need for a care home, and if we have the right community services in place, we should be able to hold this relatively stable,’ Ms Wright said.

‘While we have always performed well, we are not assessing people quickly enough, and if people have been in a care home for a few weeks, it is really hard to get them back to their own homes, as they decompensate and family situations change, and so we’re seeing more people convert short-term care home stays to long-term ones.’

Ms Wright said the discharge-to-assess scheme, where patients are taken out of hospital to understand their care needs in a setting that more closely resembles their own home, was ‘absolutely the right thing’, particularly for frail patients or those with dementia.