Health Secretary reveals £240 million fund to free up hospital beds this winter

Health Secretary reveals £240 million fund to free up hospital beds this winter

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

An emergency £240 million will be pumped into the social care system to ease the pressure on the NHS this winter.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock used his speech at the Conservative Party Conference to reveal his plan to prevent hospital beds being used by people who could be better cared for in their homes.

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

The money could buy 71,500 domestic care packages or 86,500 “reablement” packages, he said.

Mr Hancock told the conference in Birmingham: "I can announce that today I am making an extra £240 million available to pay for social care packages this winter to support our NHS.

"We will use this money to get people who don't need to be in hospital, but do need care, back home, back in their communities, so we can free up those vital hospital beds, and help people who really need it get the hospital care they need."


'buyer of fax machines' 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham

He also announced an expansion of the 100,000 Genomes Project so one million DNA codes of patients can be sequenced to improve rare disease diagnoses.

Mr Hancock said there was a "long-term vision of five million", telling the conference: "From today, our brand new NHS Genomic Medicine Service will roll out access to genomic testing.

"So for everyone with a rare cancer and for all seriously ill children it'll be available on the NHS so we'll have tailor-made treatments and tailor-made drugs that are the best fit for a patient - not a best guess.

"We're leading the world and I'm incredibly excited about this technology because of its sheer potential to change lives for the better."

The minister also spoke of his ambition to bring new technology across the health and care system, noting the NHS is "still the biggest buyer of fax machines in the country".

He joked he was able to "consult widely" about his plans in the last few days because "CCHQ's given everyone my phone number".


‘A severe crisis’

Shadow Social Care Minister Barbara Keeley said the plans did not go far enough.

She said: "There is a severe crisis in social care caused by eight years of Tory austerity and tinkering at the edges like this is not going to solve it.

"With 400,000 fewer people receiving care under this government than in 2010, funding such a small number of care packages is a drop in the ocean.

"Labour will rebuild social care services, starting with an extra £8 billion across a Parliament to start to ease the crisis, to lift care quality and ensure more people get the support they need."


'short-term bailouts' 

The Health Secretary's fund has been set up to free up beds from people who could be better treated at home

ouncillor Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the Local Government Association's Community Wellbeing Board, welcomed the "desperately needed" injection of funds but said the Government must find a long-term solution.

He said: "Councils successfully used extra social care funding from the government last year to reduce delayed transfer of care days attributable to social care by 37% since July 2017 and alleviate some of the pressure on the NHS.

"This has proved that there cannot be a sustainable NHS without a sustainable social care system.

"However, short-term bailouts are not the answer. Councils and providers cannot simply turn services on and off as funding ebbs and flows.

"Putting in place the right services and workforce requires forward planning and longer term contracts.

"Adult social care services still face a £3.5 billion funding gap by 2025 just to maintain existing standards of care."