Primary and community care to be given £3.5bn boost from May’s original £20bn injection

Theresa May has announced a real-terms investment boost of £3.5bn a year in primary and community healthcare by 2023-24 and committed to a “growing share of spending” for out-of-hospital care as part of the NHS long-term plan.

The “historic” new investment forms part of the NHS’s £20.5bn funding over the next five years, and is intended to improve the capacity to care for patients at home and in their community and thereby reduce “needless” hospital admissions.

It will help fund 24/7, community-based rapid response teams made up of doctors, nurses, and physiotherapists and dedicated support for homecare residents, all aimed at providing urgent care as an alternative to hospital.

The prime minister said: “Too often people end up in hospital not because it’s the best place to meet their needs but because the support that would allow them to be treated or recover in their own home just isn’t available.

“And the longer a patient stays in hospital the more it costs the NHS and the more pressure is put on its hardworking staff. This needs to change.

“That’s why I’m announcing a major boost in funding for community healthcare, which will give more patients a genuine and high-quality alternative to hospital.”

She said the new approach will mean more people can leave hospital quicker or avoid being admitted in the first place, and argued that strong public finances and control over money afforded by the UK’s planned exit from the EU had made this funding possible.

May also announced a national expansion of a pilot scheme assigning teams of GPs and pharmacists to care homes.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said that GPs were the “bedrock of the NHS” and that by focusing on prevention as well as cure we can “help keep people healthy and out of hospital in the first place.”

He claimed the investment “demonstrates our commitment to primary and community healthcare, capable of relieving the burden on our hospitals over the coming years and revolutionising the way high-quality care is delivered for our most vulnerable patients.”

But Nuffield Trust’s senior policy analyst Sally Gainsbury said the new money “will not lead a big shift in services” and it will simply allow GPs and community services to keep up with demand.

NHS Providers head of policy, Amber Jabbal, said it was "pleased to see that community services and primary care are central to the development of the new NHS long-term plan."

Image credit - Dean Mitchell

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