Government invests £200 million to boost NHS resilience and ensure patients receive the care they need this winter
- £200 million in new funding will help support services through peak months
- Alongside this, £40 million is being invested to bolster social care capacity and improve discharge from hospital
- Funding will ensure patients are seen as quickly as possible, while also driving forward plans to cut waiting lists
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.
The new funding announced today comes after the Prime Minister and Health 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 pressure 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 by 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.”
Louise Ansari, Chief Executive of Healthwatch England said:
“We know that many patients are concerned about being able to access timely care when the NHS is under so much pressure.
“Therefore, any extra investment to help ensure people can get care they need this winter will be welcomed by patients and services alike.”
Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of NHS Confederation said:
“Extra resource for the NHS is always welcome and this £200m investment, which we are assured by the Department of Health and Social Care is new and additional money, should help NHS leaders in their efforts to prepare for and mitigate against the impacts of what will be a seriously difficult and challenging winter period. The key issue now is getting the funding to local systems as early as possible so that they can use it most effectively.”
This builds on record funding for the NHS and social care, including additional funding already pledged for this winter. In July, we announced £600 million over the next two years to boost the capacity of the social care workforce and funding for the social care sector this winter and into next year. In August, we announced the allocations of £250m of capital funding to increase capacity in 30 hospitals across the country. The UEC recovery plan was backed by £1 billion to provide additional capacity, on top of £1.6 billion of discharge funding over 2023/24 and 2024/25. This was part of the up to £14.1 billion extra announced at the Autumn Statement for this year and next, on top of record existing funding.
We are creating extra capacity, with currently 119 community diagnostic centres and 94 surgical hubs open – helping to deliver thousands more checks, scans, tests and operations. As well as being more convenient for patients, CDCs drive efficiency across the NHS by shielding elective diagnostic services from wider hospital pressures.
Last year, we established the Elective Recovery Taskforce, made up of academics and experts from the NHS and independent sector, to look for ways to go further to bust the Covid backlogs and reduce waiting times for patients. It has since published an implementation plan, including reviewing the use of the independent sector in training junior NHS staff.
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