Primary care trusts could save £132m a year by working more closely with councils on care for over-65s, the Audit Commission said.
In a briefing, Joining up health and social care, the auditors said the money could be saved by bringing emergency admission rates for older people down to the average for the local population. The money saved could then be used to help people live independently, they added.
Savings could also be made by reducing the cost of ‘expensive’ residential care, the auditors said.
But they warned that a lack of co-operation by PCTs and councils involved in caring for the elderly could mean the savings made by one body were just ‘shunted’ on to another organisation as a cost.
The briefing found ‘significant differences’ in the care available nationwide and ‘patchy’ progress in integrating care services.
Andy McKeon, managing director of health at the Audit Commission said: ‘Most older people want to continue living independently in their own homes, if possible, avoid admission to hospital and, ultimately, die at home. Supporting them to do these things are key elements of health and social care policy.
‘There are also savings to be made by reducing the use of expensive hospital or residential care. Our evidence shows there is considerable local variation in achieving these aims.’
McKeon warned against organisations focusing on reducing their own spending and said that past experience showed that an integrated approach was the best way to save money while maintaining quality of service.
‘There is a temptation when times are tough to withdraw into silos and limit your focus. We have seen this in the past,’ he said.
‘This instinct is misplaced. Real savings, and a better, more independent, experience for local people, can only be achieved through partnership, and a view of what constitutes value for money across both health and social care.’
The report calls on the NHS and social care providers to understand and make use of their local data as a ‘starting point’ to make changes and to also track the impact of their joint actions.