Wirral Council could extend a contract up to £52m that aims to relieve the pressure on hospitals.
Councillors at an adult health and social care committee are being asked to approve a contract for five years costing £4.9m a year to Medequip Assistive Technology to provide the Wirral Independence Service. There will be options to continue this for another five years bringing the total cost to £51.7m.
The current service helps provide specialist equipment to mainstream and specialist schools as well as paediatrics.
In a report, the council said, “The overarching aims of this service is to support people to live independently in their own homes as long as possible, support the reduction in hospital admission and support timely hospital discharges.”
The service works on helping those who are visually or hearing impaired, those who need bathing equipment, beds or commodes, helping prevent falls, providing a shop, and an online ordering system.
Health and social care is one of the biggest spenders out of Wirral Council’s budget making up 58% in 2022. Increasing costs of care is expected to add the biggest pressure to the local authority’s budget in the next financial year.
These are expected to add £10.5m to the council’s budget while an ageing population is adding £2m in costs. Over the next five financial years, the overall increase in costs is expected to be more than £80m.
The Medequip contract will be managed within the Better Care Fund, a government fund that works with local services to deliver health and social care so people can manage their own health.
It was previously expected the contract would cost £42m over the ten years but this has to be adjusted due to growth as well as increases in staffing costs. The initial bid by Medequip had come in at £67m but this managed to be revised down with any increase managed by public health and Cheshire and Merseyside NHS boards.
If the council does not agree to extend the contract, councillors were warned there was a risk it wouldn’t be able to fulfil its legal obligations to patients and “will not have a service to support people to remain independent at home.” Removing parts of the service would also reduce the quality of those being cared for.
Wirral Council is also expected to extend a direct payment support scheme though with a number of changes to increase engagement.