£500m in funding announced to help hospitals discharge patients and improve GP access

Topics covered: Department of Health and Social Care, GP, pharmacies, UK Government

The Department of Health and Social Care (“DHSC”) on Friday 23 September 2022 have announced an additional £500m in funding. This funding is aimed at fixing the discharge process in hospitals, which is often backlogged, due to a lack of community support available in the care sector. DHSC Health Secretary Thérèse Coffey says the pot can be used to pay for extra help for patients who need it, and aims to improve GP access alongside tackling the discharge process.

Why is there a problem with patients being discharged?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, patients who needed it received four weeks of support when discharged from hospital. This scheme was credited with helping reduce discharge delays, however it was scrapped earlier this year despite warnings from hospital bosses.

What is being done to tackle the problem?

Thérèse Coffey has reiterated previous commitments made by the Conservative Party to take on extra 999 call handlers which will help free up hospital beds by giving more support to patients at home.

Alongside this Thérèse Coffey on 23 September 2022 has promised to improve access to GPs by allowing them to take on more senior nurses, alongside, giving extra responsibilities to pharmacists. The purpose of this is to free up three million appointments a year for GPs. Therefore the aim is to ensure, same-day appointments would be available for patients who needed them, while those wanting a routine appointment should wait no longer than two weeks.

What has been said?

Many in the care sector are sceptical of the additional £500m in funding, as it will not be enough to tackle the deep-rooted problem regarding hospital backlogs, GP access and staff shortages. There are currently an estimated 165,000 vacancies in the care sector in England alone. Charities, care providers and councils have all called for enough funding to increase care worker pay significantly. This is because currently the cost of living has made it even more difficult to recruit staff, who can now earn more working on a supermarket check-out, with a lot less responsibility than working in the NHS or care sector. Professor Martin Marshall of the Royal College of GPs, said:

“Lumbering a struggling service with more expectations, without a plan as to how to deliver them, will only serve to add to the intense workload and workforce pressures GPs and our teams are facing, while having minimal impact on the care our patients receive. GPs share patients’ frustrations when we cannot deliver the care we want to deliver in a timely way.”

This was further emphasised by Dr Jennifer Dixon, Chief Executive of the Health Foundation, who said:

“The measures amounted to a series of short-term fixes that were tiny compared to the scale of the challenges”.

The Health Secretary did not consult the Royal College of GPs prior to this announcement on 23 September 2022.

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