A council is facing a £19.5 million black hole in its social care budget because patients are spending too long in hospital beds. Staffordshire County Council was due to receive the NHS funding to pay for services for elderly and disabled people, but now NHS England is threatening to withhold the cash because the authority is failing to reduce its bed-blocking figures by ensuring care packages are in place. Council leaders say the target – cutting social care-related delayed transfers of care by two-thirds in eight weeks – was unrealistic and set at ‘extremely short notice’. Now they are lobbying the Government on the issue, and working with the local NHS to find alternative ways of paying for the affected services. It comes after the council had to make cuts in areas such as drug and alcohol services after the NHS withdrew £15 million last year. Council leader Philip Atkins said: “As a county council we will spend a record £300 million on health and social care this year and the money from the Better Care Fund is vital to support the most vulnerable in our communities at home this winter. If the money is withheld we, like other authorities in the same position, have made it clear that there could be a profound impact on health and social care and actually increase the pressure on the NHS.” Bed blocking can occur when patients are medically fit, but cannot be discharged from hospital due the lack of social care. The county council is one of 18 local authorities across the country which have failed to hit targets to reduce the problem.