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04.08.20

Calls for further investment into community healthcare services

As community healthcare services continue to show their key role supporting hospitals from becoming overwhelmed during the coronavirus pandemic, allowing patients to receive care closer to or even within their own homes, the Community Network have issued a call for greater investment and support into these services from the Government.

Without this increase in funding, the calls warn that the services’ contributions are at risk as the NHS braces for a challenging winter managing both annual pressures and the possibility of a second wave of the virus.

The Community Network is hosted by the NHS Confederation and NHS Providers and represents community healthcare services across England.

In a newly-published report, the network outlines a number of long-standing challenges including significant workforce vacancies and demand potentially outstripping capacity which face community healthcare services without further government investment.

As such, the Community Network has called for investment in home-based community pathways, as well as community rehabilitation beds to bolster capacity, with the next phase of the pandemic expected to see significant demand from Covid-19 patients needing long-term rehabilitative care.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced last month a £3bn funding package for the NHS to help support the health service during an anticipated difficult winter period, with £500m of this funding being portioned off to support the discharge of patients from hospital and into the community.

However, while welcomed, the Community Network details in its report the belief that longer-term support and investment is also necessary to allow community healthcare services to continue to effectively respond and manage one of the toughest health challenges of recent times.

It will also help the services advance the national ambition to provide a greater range of services closer to people’s homes.

Andrew Ridley, Chair of the Community Network, which is run the NHS Confederation and NHS Providers, as well as Chief Executive of Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust said: “Over the past few months, community healthcare services have shown their value, flexibility and resilience by playing a critical role in preventing the NHS from becoming overwhelmed in the face of the greatest crisis of modern times.

“This has been particularly remarkable given that community health services entered the pandemic under considerable pressure due to rising demand, workforce shortages and increasingly complex patient needs.

“The cash injection announced recently by the Government to support community healthcare services over winter was welcome but it is a sticking plaster for the longer-term support and investment that this sector desperately needs. 

“Without additional funding, including for social care and public health, and the workforce to deliver its services, there is the real risk that discharge arrangements will be compromised and hospitals could become overwhelmed. We need realism about what these services will be able to deliver safely in the next stage of the pandemic.

“More broadly, the experiences of the pandemic must be used as a catalyst for change to reset how services are delivered and to reinvigorate the national ambition to provide more care closer to people’s own homes.”

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