Published: 08/01/2004, Volume II4, No. 5886 Page 7

A survey of social services directors has revealed mixed feelings about the controversial fines for councils responsible for delayed discharges.

The fining system, introduced this week, means councils will pay fines of£100 per day (£120 in London) for each day a patient is delayed in hospital for non-clinical reasons.

Its introduction follows a threemonth shadow period in which acute hospitals and councils have been operating the system without money changing hands.

A survey by HSJ sister magazine Local Government Chronicle shows mixed reactions to the initiative from those working in social services.

Half of directors who responded to the survey ranked the trial period as a success. But half claimed the shadow period had revealed problems; one-third said it had meant an increase in bureaucracy, raising administrative costs and jeopardising service delivery.

According to one respondent, the system creates a 'tremendous amount of work for social services managers trying to manage duty systems and other pressures on service delivery'. But others said they expected to hand over only a small portion of their reimbursement liabilities to acute trusts, following agreements with their health partners.

Over half of those polled said they had invested all or part of their delayed discharges grant into pooled budgets with NHS bodies in their areas, with liabilities offset against the investment.

Twenty per cent of social services directors responded to the survey.