The government is investing £200 million to boost resilience in the NHS and help patients get the care they need as quickly as possible this winter.
Alongside this, £40 million is being invested to bolster social care capacity and improve discharge from hospital. The Department of Health and Social Care say funding will ensure patients are seen as quickly as possible, while also driving forward plans to cut waiting lists.
The new funding announced today comes after the Prime Minister and Health and Social Care Secretary met clinical leaders and NHS chiefs yesterday to drive forward planning to ease pressures in urgent and emergency care while protecting waiting list targets this winter.
Winter is the busiest time for the NHS, with increased pressures from flu, Covid and seasonal illness – combined this year with ongoing pressure from industrial action. That’s why the government has started planning earlier than ever before to ensure patients get the care they need.
The Urgent and Emergency Care Recovery Plan announced earlier this year was backed by £1 billion to boost capacity in the health system by providing 5,000 additional beds, 800 new ambulances and 10,000 virtual wards.
As a result, significant progress has been made – compared to July 2022, Category 2 ambulance response times are now 27 minutes faster, there are 2,500 more general and acute beds and 9,700 virtual ward beds available, and there are 1,500 fewer people stuck in hospital when they are medically fit to be discharged.
That comes on top of the Primary Care Recovery Plan which is freeing up 15 million GP appointments to help end the 8am rush.
The government remains committed to cutting waiting lists – there has been good progress made on the Elective Recovery Plan with 2 year and 18 month waits eliminated so far.
Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said: “Patients can be reassured that I will always back the NHS, so that those who most need help and support will get the care they need.”
“Winter is the most challenging time for the health service, which is why we’ve been planning for it all year – with huge government investment to fund new ambulances, beds and virtual wards.”
“This extra £200 million will bolster the health service during its busiest period, while protecting elective care so we can keep cutting waiting lists.”
Health and Social Care Secretary, Steve Barclay, said: “I know winter brings immense challenges for the NHS which is why we are working with health leaders to make sure we are prepared earlier.”
“We are working closely with trusts to see how we can continue to use technology and new ways of working to strengthen health and social services, alongside the thousands of new hospital beds and hundreds of new ambulances we are already providing.”
“Yesterday I heard and witnessed first-hand how all parts of the NHS are coming together to make sure it is resilient to winter pressures for years to come.”
Chief Executive of NHS England, Amanda Pritchard, said: “NHS staff are already working incredibly hard to prepare for this year with robust plans underway to boost capacity, including through having more ambulances on the road, more beds, and increasing the use of virtual wards. Today’s clear support and confirmation of funding from the government is welcome.”
“Since the publication of our Urgent and Emergency Care Recovery Plan at the start of the year and thanks to the efforts of staff, waiting times for ambulances and A&E services have improved for patients and as ever, the public can also play their part – get your winter vaccines when invited and use services in the usual way – 999 in an emergency and 111 online for other health conditions.”
Alongside this, £40 million is being invested to improve social care capacity, strengthen admissions avoidance services and boost discharge rates – targeting the areas with the greatest urgent and emergency care challenges. The funding forms part of the £600 million social care winter workforce package – with local authorities in the most challenged integrated care systems now invited to submit proposals.
Local authorities can bid for the £40 million to help boost adult social care provision over the winter months. They will be able to use the funding to buy more services aimed at keeping people out of hospital as well as more packages of home care which allow people to leave hospital more quickly and build back their independence, such as enabling a carer to come to their home a couple of times a day and helping them with tasks including getting dressed. The funding could also be used to increase the amount of specialist dementia support available in the community, services which also help to keep people out of hospital.
Earlier this month, the government allocated £50 million to local authorities to help older people and those with disabilities live safely and independently in their own homes.
Overall, adaptation grants support 50,000 people a year and help people to be discharged from hospital quicker, cutting waiting times – one of the government’s top five priorities.
Health Minister, Helen Whately, said: “We want to support areas with the greatest need this winter, and this extra £40 million will help local authorities boost the support available for people who need it most.”
“It will improve social care capacity, boost discharge rates and avoid unnecessary admissions, freeing up hospital beds and reducing waits for care.”
Professor Martin Green OBE says: “The £40 million investment into social care capacity is to be welcomed. We know that adult social plays a crucial role in strengthening admissions avoidance services and boosting discharge rates with support lent to the NHS.”
“This funding will only be successful if there is true collaboration and partnership with care providers. Integrated Care System and Local Authority leaders must work pragmatically with care providers to determine how this funding will best serve to improve outcomes. We have too often seen small, temporary funding injections lost in system bureaucracy without serving to materially improve care. We must strive to ensure a new future is realised.”