NHS will buy thousands of extra beds in care homes and other settings to help discharge more patients from hospital
New funding will help to reduce the pressure on hospitals by moving medically-fit patients to community care facilities
As part of new government measures, six national ‘Discharge Frontrunners’ will lead the way to explore new long-term initiatives to free up hospital beds.
Thousands of medically-fit patients will be discharged from hospitals into community care settings, such as care homes, over the coming weeks to free up hospital beds and reduce mounting pressure on the NHS, Health and Social Care Secretary, Steve Barclay, announced today.
The Government will make available up to £200m of additional funding to buy short-term care placements to allow people to be discharged safely from hospitals into the community where they will receive the care they need to recover before returning to their homes.
The move will free up hospital beds so people can be admitted more quickly from A&E to wards, reducing pressure on emergency departments and speeding up ambulance handovers.
There are currently around 13,000 people occupying hospital beds in England who are fit to be discharged.
The additional £200m – on top of the £500m Adult Social Care Discharge Fund already announced, which reached the frontline in December and is already helping discharge people more quickly – will fund stays of up to four weeks per patient until the end of March.
Integrated care boards – organisations that arrange health services in each local area – will begin booking beds that are most appropriate to patients’ needs.
The Government is also making available an additional £50m in capital funding to expand hospital discharge lounges and ambulance hubs.
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
Ambulance queues in some areas are made worse due to a lack of physical space – and the new money will create ambulance hubs where vehicles can manoeuvre more easily to avoid delays handing over patients.
In addition, the funding boost will expand discharge lounges in NHS trusts – areas where patients can be moved out of acute beds while they wait to be discharged.
In a statement in Parliament later today, Barclay will outline a series of further measures to address current pressures facing the NHS over winter, including long waits for emergency care and delays to discharging patients who are medically fit to leave hospital.
This will include six areas trialling innovative long-term solutions to freeing up hospital beds and making sure patients get the right care, at the right time, and which could be rolled out across the NHS if successful.
He 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 pose 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.
“In addition, we are trialling six National Discharge Frontrunners – innovative, quick solutions which could reduce discharge delays, moving patients from hospital to home more quickly.”
Sussex Health and Care, the Northern Care Alliance, Humber and North Yorkshire, One Croydon Alliance, Leeds Health and Care Partnership, and Warwickshire Place have all put forward ideas that will help the patients in their area move out of hospital more quickly while providing continuity of care.
These ideas include dedicated dementia hubs, new offers of provision for rehabilitative care, and creating effective data tools to help manage demand for discharge of medically-fit patients – giving them the help they need to live comfortably in the community after a hospital stay.
As well as helping people right now, we’re looking ahead to make our health and care system work better next winter and beyond
This new programme will trial long-term solutions to issues which result in patients staying in hospital longer than necessary. For example, Leeds is looking to improve how health teams in their local hospitals are working with those providing community services such as rehabilitation, which will mean better support locally for patients who need support after a hospital stay.
Prolonged stays in a hospital bed can contribute to poorer outcomes, particularly for older people, with increased muscle loss making rehabilitation harder, as well at the ongoing risk of exposure to infections and the impact on mental health. These delays also have a knock-on impact for other people, including those awaiting elective care and those needing urgent medical treatment.
The new measures follow the Prime Minister’s speech last week on building a better future, where he set out one of his key promises that NHS waiting lists will fall and people will get the care they need more quickly.
Minister for Care, Helen Whately, said: “Getting people out of hospital on time is more important than ever.
“It’s good for patients and it helps hospitals make space for those who need urgent care.
“We’re launching six Discharge Frontrunners to lead the way with innovations to help get people out of hospital and back home.
“Winter is always hard for the NHS and social care, and this year especially with flu in high circulation. That’s why we provided the £500m Adult Social Care Discharge Fund earlier in the winter.
We hope the frontrunner programme will offer new solutions for local systems to help patients access the services they need and help to free up bed space in NHS hospitals
“As well as helping people right now, we’re looking ahead to make our health and care system work better next winter and beyond.
“These problems are not new, but now is the time to fix them for the future.”
In total, up to £14.1billion additional funding will be invested over the next two years to improve urgent and emergency care and tackle the backlog – the highest spend on health and care in any government’s history.
£7.5billion of this support is for adult social care and discharge over the next two years, which will also help deal with immediate pressures.
Sarah-Jane Marsh, national director of urgent and emergency care, said: “There is no doubt the NHS is under pressure, with the latest weekly data showing flu cases in hospital increased by almost half, putting additional strain on already-busy wards and departments.
“We want to ensure all patients ready to leave hospital do so quickly and safely, and NHS staff are working closely with local authority colleagues to help get more patients out of hospital when they are medically fit to do so.
“We hope the frontrunner programme will offer new solutions for local systems to help patients access the services they need and help to free up bed space in NHS hospitals.”
The frontrunners are: