Health and Social Care Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister, Thérèse Coffey, this week announced a £500m injection into social care services in a bid to relieve the pressure on hospitals this winter.
The Adult Social Care Discharge Fund will help speed up the safe discharge of patients from hospital this winter to free up beds, as well as helping to retain and recruit more care workers.
With 13,000 patients in beds who should be receiving care in the community, this will improve the flow in emergency departments and help to reduce ambulance delays.
The plan also sets out interventions to improve access to general practice appointments, with the expectation that everyone who needs one should get an appointment at a GP practice within two weeks – and that patients with the most-urgent needs should be seen the same day.
As well as more support staff, an enhanced role for pharmacists, and new telephone systems; changes will also be made to NHS pension rules to retain more-experienced NHS clinicians and remove the barriers to staff returning from retirement, increasing capacity for appointments and other services.
This includes extending retirement flexibilities to allow retired and partially-retired staff to continue to return to work or increase their working commitments without having payment of their pension benefits reduced or suspended, and fixing the unintended impacts of inflation, so senior clinicians aren’t taxed more than is necessary.
Our Plan for Patients, which will help empower and inform people to live healthier lives, while boosting the NHS’s performance and productivity
Coffey, said: “Patients and those who draw on care and support are my top priority and we will help them receive care as quickly and conveniently as possible.
“That is why we are publishing Our Plan for Patients, which will help empower and inform people to live healthier lives, while boosting the NHS’s performance and productivity.
“It sets out a range of commitments for our health service, ensuring we create smoother pathways for patients in all parts of health and care.”
Alongside the Government’s plan to ensure patients get the best-possible care, Coffey also called for a ‘national endeavour’ to support the health service.
This includes encouraging more volunteering, as well as exploring strengthening how the NHS uses volunteers, such as supporting ambulances in the areas of greatest need.
Under the plans local health and care partners will be able to decide how best to use the social care funding to improve hospital discharge and to retain and recruit social care staff.