At least 18,000 social workers, therapists and health professionals will provide help for patients in or near home across England, under a £5.3bn push to slash unnecessary hospital visits and stays being hailed by health secretary Jeremy Hunt.
An additional £1.5bn of local health cash has now been committed to the government’s Better Care Fund as part of efforts to better co-ordinate health and social care provision.
The Department of Health hopes the push will see 101,000 fewer “delayed discharges”, 163,000 fewer stays in accident and emergency and 2,000 elderly people helped to stay in their own homes rather than going into care, potentially saving the cash-strapped NHS many hundreds of millions of pounds.
“Too many families experience being passed from pillar to post”
Approval has now been given to 97% of proposals drawn up jointly by local councils and NHS bodies for using the fund, with five areas given continued help to get them ready for when the funding becomes available in April.
They include moves to seven-day-a-week care services to deal with the issue of people being forced to wait until Monday to leave hospital, joint assessments, better information sharing and attaching a specific worker to each case.
Mr Hunt said: “For years, successive governments and NHS leaders have talked about joining up our health and care services so people get better care at the right time and in the right place.
“The time for talk is over - our plans will make this vision a reality for patients and help deliver a sustainable future for the NHS,” he said.
“Too many families experience being passed from pillar to post, between the NHS and their council, endlessly repeating their stories along the way,” he added.
“By breaking down barriers within the system, these plans will allow staff to work together to prevent people from becoming ill in the first place, meaning our hospitals can focus on treating the patients who really need to be there,” said Mr Hunt.
“This approach will transform the lives of the most vulnerable”
Chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, who announced the fund last year, said: “It’s great to see the hard work and additional investment which has been put into this vision and the real changes it will mean for older and disabled people.
“Even in its first year, this approach will transform the lives of the most vulnerable by reducing stays in A&E, cutting unnecessary days spent in hospital and supporting people to live independently - and it will save money which can be reinvested in the NHS and social care.”
Shadow minister for care and older people Liz Kendall said: “Patients and taxpayers urgently need more joined-up services that help keep people healthy and living at home, rather than ending up in hospital.
“The government’s Better Care Fund is depressingly unambitious,” she said. “It only brings together around four percent of the total we spend on the NHS and social care.
“The government should have focused on integrating frontline services from day one, but instead they forced through a backroom reorganisation that’s wasted £3bn, fragmented the NHS and made integration harder to achieve,” she said.
“With our care services in crisis, we need far bigger and bolder plans for reform. Labour will ensure the full integration of the NHS and social care, underpinned by our £2.5bn a year transformation fund which will help kick start the changes we need to ensure our care services are fit for the future,” added Ms Kendall.