Thousands of extra 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 pressure on the NHS, the Health and Social Care Secretary, Steve Barclay, is set to announce today (Monday 9 January 2023).
The government will make available up to £200 million of additional funding to immediately 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 £200 million - on top of the £500 million Adult Social Care Discharge Fund already announced which reached the frontline in December and is already helping discharge people more quickly - will fund maximum stays of up to 4 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 immediately making available additional £50 million in capital funding to expand hospital discharge lounges and ambulance hubs. Ambulance queues in some areas are made worse due to a lack of physical space - the new money will create new ambulance hubs where vehicles can manoeuvre more easily to avoid delays handing over patients. The funding boost will also expand discharge lounges in NHS trusts - areas where patients can be moved out of acute beds while they wait to be discharged, freeing up beds in the meantime.
In a statement in Parliament later today, the Health and Social Care Secretary 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 6 areas trialling innovative long-term solutions to free up hospital beds and make sure patients get the right care at the right time, which could be rolled out across the NHS if successful.
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.