More NHS patients will be cared for at home and in their community to avoid them going into or staying in hospital unnecessarily, the Government says.
During a visit to a north London health centre, the Prime Minister set out a major new investment in primary and community healthcare – which it claims is worth £3.5 billion a year in real terms by 2023/4 – building on the existing NHS budget for these services.
The Government also pledged to cut needless hospital admissions and help inpatients return home sooner – through community-based rapid response teams and dedicated support for care home residents.
The 24/7 rapid response teams are made up of doctors, nurses and physiotherapists and will provide urgent care and support in the community as an alternative to hospital. This includes emergency treatment as well as support to help patients recover closer to home, which will help people stay healthy and independent for longer.
The announcement forms a key part of the government’s so-called ‘Long Term Plan’ for the NHS.
Prime Minister Theresa May said: “Too often people end up in hospital not because it’s the best place to meet their needs but because the support that would allow them to be treated or recover in their own home just isn’t available.
“Many of us might assume that hospital is the safest place to be – but in reality many patients would be much better off being cared for in the community.
“And the longer a patient stays in hospital the more it costs the NHS and the more pressure is put on its hardworking staff. This needs to change.
“That’s why I’m announcing a major boost in funding for community healthcare, which will give more patients a genuine and high-quality alternative to hospital.
“The new approach we’re setting out today will mean more people can leave hospital quicker, or avoid being admitted in the first place – which is better for patients and better for the health service.
“Leaving the EU means taking back control of our money as we will no longer be sending vast sums to Brussels. This helps our public finances and means we have more money to spend on domestic priorities like our NHS. And we’ve been able to fully fund this historic commitment without raising taxes.
The Government says as many as a third of people in hospital stay longer than they need to, often because they can’t get treatment close to home, and that analysis suggests that over a third of hospital admissions from care homes are avoidable.
The Prime Minister also set out a further measure that will help care home residents get more personalised, convenient and timely care where they live, with the national roll-out of a successful pilot that sees healthcare professionals assigned to care homes where they get to know individual residents’ needs and can provide tailored treatment and support. The teams include pharmacists and GPs who can also offer emergency care out of hours.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “GPs are the bedrock of the NHS. To make the NHS sustainable for the long term we need more prevention as well as cure. So we will back our GPs, primary and community healthcare to help keep people healthy and out of hospital in the first place. Every patient deserves to receive care tailored to their needs. Yet too often our hospitals become the only place to turn for older people, often to the detriment of their health – but no longer.
“The Prime Minister and I are determined to ensure more people are able to receive care in their communities or at home, taking the pressure of our hard working NHS staff.
“This additional funding of £3.5 billion a year by 2023/24 demonstrates our commitment to primary and community healthcare, capable of relieving the burden on our hospitals over the coming years and revolutionising the way high-quality care is delivered for our most vulnerable patients.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “Everyone can see that to future-proof the NHS we need to radically redesign how primary and community health services work together. For community health services this means quick response to help people who don’t need to be in hospital, as well as dissolving the 70 year old boundary between GP practices and community nursing.
“But to will the end is to will the means. That’s why – as part of the NHS Long Term Plan – for the first time we’re going to guarantee that these services get a growing share of the growing NHS budget.”