Matt Hancock, the health and social care secretary, has announced an additional £240m funding for social care ahead of winter. The funding will ease pressure on the NHS by allowing local authorities to ensure that there is appropriate care in place for patients discharged from hospital.
The announcement came ahead of his speech to the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham.
The Department of Health and Social Care said the money could pay for one of the following:
- more than 71,500 home care packages to help patients get out of hospital quicker
- 86,500 reablement packages, which support workers to help patients carry out everyday tasks and regain mobility and confidence
- nearly 27,000 home adaptations, including new facilities for personal care, such as adapting a shower room if a patient has limited movement
It said that the funding brings total government investment in the health and care system over winter to more than £420 million, which includes:
- £145 million given to the NHS in September to boost winter resilience, which will go toward upgrading wards, redeveloping A&E departments and paying for an extra 900 beds
- £36.3 million awarded to ambulance trusts in June to prepare for the colder months, which will go towards buying 256 new state-of-the-art ambulances
As announced in last year’s budget, an additional £1.6 billion has been given to the service for 2018 to 2019. This investment will be used by the NHS to treat a quarter of a million more patients in A&E and to improve A&E performance.
Other actions being taken to boost support over the winter according to the statement include:
- ensuring extended access in primary care is in place across the country, with an additional 9 million appointments per year
- rolling out NHS 111 Online nationwide
- taking action to safely reduce ambulances conveying patients to hospital through increased ‘hear and treat’ and ‘see and treat’
- expanding the provision of ‘same day’ emergency care
- setting an ambition to reduced long stays in hospital (over 21 days) by 25% to free up 4,000 beds
NHS leaders have also announced an ambition for all frontline workers to get the flu jab to protect patients as part of a comprehensive plan for this winter.
Matt Hancock said: "I want to help the NHS through this winter. I have already provided funding for hospitals to make upgrades to their buildings to deal with pressures this winter, and I can announce that today I am making an extra £240 million available to councils to pay for social care packages this winter to support our NHS.
“We will use this money to get people who don’t need to be in hospital, but do need care, back home, back into their communities, so we can free up those vital hospital beds, and help people who really need it, get the hospital care they need.”
Chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, said: "The funding announced by the health and social care secretary for local authorities to spend on ensuring patients can be discharged promptly into appropriate care this winter will be strongly welcomed by trusts. This is exactly what NHS Providers called for in September and it’s good to be heard.”