The Government has announced a £7 billion package for health and care services to support the next phase of the NHS response to Covid-19.

The NHS will receive £6.6 billion in additional funding over the next six months and a further £341 million of funding for infection control measures in adult social care services. This will support rapid testing to keep staff and residents safe in day care, respite care, care homes and other community care settings. 

The funding will also support the hospital discharge programme, primary care costs, infection control measures and long Covid services. It will also ensure the NHS can continue to provide the mental health and occupational health support services it has put in place for nurses, paramedics, therapists, pharmacists, and other staff working on the frontline during the pandemic.

Discharge to assess has been a vital policy during the Covid-19 crisis

It is hoped that elective care procedures, such as hip replacements or cataract surgery, will be now be increased and £594 million has been ring-fenced to continue the hospital discharge programme so staff will have the resources needed to enable patients to leave hospital as quickly and as safely as possible, with the right community or at-home support. This will free up thousands of extra beds and staff time to help the NHS recover services.

The hospital discharge programme also allows patients who have tested positive for the virus to be discharged safely from hospital into a specifically designated setting where they will receive appropriate care in a Covid-secure environment, before returning or moving into a care home or other care environment to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Andrew Ridley, chair of the Community Network, which is hosted by the NHS Confederation and NHS Providers, said: "We welcome the announcement of £594m funding for discharge to assess and the certainty it provides for the first half of 2021/22. 

"Discharge to assess has been a vital policy during the Covid-19 crisis, and has helped local health and care services to increase the numbers of people being discharged, as well reducing delays and, crucially, the length of stay in hospital. The move to continue this funding for the first six months of the next financial year also reflects the direction of travel in the recent NHS white paper, which set out proposals to include these policies in primary legislation."

An additional £87 million will also provide enhanced discharge from inpatient mental health care, enabling people who are well enough to leave hospital with additional support to help them recover in the community.