As well as setting out his winter priorities and briefly discussing pay, health secretary Steve Barclay also announced the details of the £500m discharge fund that was announced earlier this year.
The latest data indicates that only 39.9% of patients were discharged when they were medically ready to be in October. That translates to more than 13,000 beds being unnecessarily occupied on an average day.
In light of this continued challenge, the DHSC is rolling out £500m worth of funding to quicken access to treatment, by increasing bed capacity and bolstering the social care workforce.
£300m of the fund will be given to ICBs to address the bed capacity issues with local authorities to receive the rest, allowing them to expand the social care workforce and take some of the burden off hospitals as demand continues to rise.
Specific allocations will be released “in due course” with the initial payments expected in the coming weeks. A second round of funding will also be distributed next January – further insulating the health sector throughout the busy winter months.
Speaking at the NHS Providers annual conference, Steve Barclay said: “I am pleased to announce details of the fund which will be provided to ICBs and local authorities to free up beds, at a time when bed occupancy is at 94%.
“In line with our devolved and data-driven approach we will be allowing local areas to determine how we can speed up the discharge of patients from hospital. This might be through purchasing supportive technology boosting domiciliary care capacity or physiotherapists and occupational therapists to support recovery at home.
“We will also be looking closely at the impact of how funding is used and using this data to inform future decisions around funding.”
As the health secretary alludes to above, local authorities will be able spend their money on what they feel would most benefit their areas, with the expectation being the expansion of domiciliary care will be a priority in many areas.
Minister of State for Care Helen Whately said: “People should be cared for in the best place for them, but discharge delays mean patients are spending too long in hospital.
“Our discharge fund will get more people cared for in the right place at the right time. We’re asking hospitals and the social care system to work together to help patients and carers too, who often take on a lot of the burden of caring when someone leaves hospital.
“The discharge fund will boost the social care workforce and in turn reduce pressures on the NHS and hospital staff, as it frees up beds and helps improve ambulance handover delays.”