The government will give the NHS an extra £200m to buy short-term care placements to help relieve the pressures on its beleaguered emergency care system.
Integrated care boards (ICBs) will be able to use the money to buy beds in care homes or other settings for up to four weeks in order to speed up hospital discharges, freeing up beds to admit people stuck in accident and emergency departments.
Currently, almost 13,000 people are in hospital who are medically fit for discharge – up almost 30% on this time last year – because of a lack ongoing health services, housing issues or insufficient social care provision. The latter has been linked to the sector’s increasing workforce shortages, with vacancies having risen by 52% in 2021-22.
The new money is in addition to the £500m adult social care discharge fund, which is designed to both speed up hospital discharge and bolster the social care workforce over the winter. Forty per cent of this money was provided to councils and ICBs last month, with a second tranche coming at the end of this month.
Barclay – NHS under ‘enormous pressures’
Unveiling the latest funding package, health and social care secretary Steve Barclay said: “The NHS is under enormous pressure from Covid and flu, and on top of tackling the backlog caused by the pandemic, Strep A and upcoming strikes, this winter poses an extreme challenge.
“I am taking urgent action to reduce pressure on the health service, including investing an additional £200m to enable the NHS to immediately buy up beds in the community to safely discharge thousands of patients from hospital and free up hospital capacity, on top of the £500m we’ve already invested to tackle this issue.”
He also said six areas would also be trialling new solutions to reducing discharge delays, which could be rolled out if successful. This will include investing in home care in Warwickshire, rehabilitation and reablement in Leeds and additional support for people with dementia in Greater Manchester.