Hospital Dr News

Hancock offers extra £240m to social care to ease winter pressures in NHS

An emergency £240m will be pumped into the social care system to try to winter pressures, the Health and Social Care Secretary has announced.

Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference, Matt Hancock said action was needed to stop hospital beds being used by people who could be better cared for in their homes – so-called ‘bed blockers’.

But experts called it a sticking plaster, with a long-term plan and funding arrangement needed for social care.

The extra government money will be allocated to councils to spend on measures including housing adaptations and care packages.

“We will use this money to get people who don’t need to be in hospital, but do need care, back home, back into their communities, so we can free up those vital hospital beds,” he said.

The money could pay for 71,500 domestic care packages to help patients get out of hospital quicker or 86,500 ‘reablement’ packages, which support workers to help patients carry out everyday tasks and regain mobility and confidence.

A third option is for the cash to be spent on 27,000 home adaptations, including new facilities for personal care, such as adapting a shower room if a patient has limited movement.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “It is a sign that health ministers are fighting the battle for social care within government. But as we approach winter, we need to accept that social care is in a perilous state – the market for providing care is incredibly fragile, with operators pulling out or closing down. There is a risk of another scandal such as Winterbourne View and we continue to see NHS hospitals unable to discharge patients because there is nowhere to support them in the community.

“More importantly, hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people are unable to access the care and support they need.

“Today’s announcement is no more than a stop gap – in the Budget we need funding to address the current crisis and at the very least a commitment to setting a long term funding settlement.

“The evidence suggests social care needs nearly 4% a year to meet the needs of an ageing population and an increasing number of younger adults with disabilities.

“If it is to be true to its promises the Government must produce fully-costed social care reform that goes hand-in-hand with the upcoming NHS plan. Without this the health service plan will fail.”

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair, added: “This is a short-term fix that doesn’t nearly make up for a decade’s worth of cuts to social care, and does not address the impoverished infrastructure of the NHS this winter.

“Local authority spending on adult social care in England has fallen % in real terms since 2010. Amid a growing population, this means spending per adult has gone down 13.5% – from £439 in 2010 to £379 last year – and this is before we even consider the additional pressure an ageing population with multiple health conditions puts on social care services.

“BMA research has shown that the typical ‘winter crisis’ is now an all-year crisis. Indeed, recent data revealed this summer was the worst on record for A&E performance, with more patients than ever waiting for longer than 12 hours. So, while any extra funding is welcome, what is needed from the government is to use its long-term investment plan to address pressures across the health and social care service, rather than offer short-term, quick fix gestures.”

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