National organisations call for £600m government funding to speed up hospital discharges
Leading health and social care organisations are calling for additional funding from the UK Government to avoid delayed transfers of care and ensure people can be treated in or close to their homes.
In a letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and Chancellor, the NHS Confederation, NHS Providers, Community Network, Age UK, Healthwatch England and British Red Cross call for additional funding for discharge to assess to be confirmed this month.
Otherwise, people who are ready to be discharged from hospital risk having to stay longer than needed, causing treatment delays for other patients, the organisations warn.
Since April, people in hospital have benefited from an extra £600 million of funding that has enabled more investment in community services, which has led to more people being treated in or close to their homes.
The discharge to assess (D2A) process guarantees four weeks of care support for each discharged person, funded centrally. People can leave hospital as soon as they are medically ready, freeing up vital capacity. Alongside the NHS, social care and their families, patients then have a full four weeks to finalise longer-term care arrangements.
However, with the essential funding coming to an end in October, the national organisations are urging government to avoid a ‘cliff edge’ in care as these services will need to be stood down unless a decision is made to extend the funding.
Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, commented: “This funding has been instrumental in moving patients out of hospital as quickly and safely as possible so that they can be cared for in or closer to their homes, and also so that more patients can benefit from beds that would otherwise be occupied.
“The interaction of health and care systems is complex and can be controversial, but this is an approach that has been proven to work. With the NHS facing a mammoth backlog of care and with the government committed to unveiling a comprehensive social reform package in the autumn, this is surely not the time to be cancelling an initiative at the boundary of health and care that has worked so well.”
The organisations are calling for the £600 million to be matched for the second half of the year, arguing that pulling the plug on the funding will have a knock-on effect on the NHS waiting list for elective care, with 5.3 million people already known to be waiting for treatment.
The letter reads: “In short, there is a clear consensus across stakeholders within the sector that ceasing dedicated discharge to assess funding risks reversing the very clear improvements seen during the pandemic, by creating a damaging funding ‘cliff edge’.
“With dedicated, permanent funding, the implementation of discharge to assess can be further refined to continue improving outcomes and experiences for individuals, their families and carers.”
Additionally, the organisations are urging the Secretary of State and the Chancellor to confirm the D2A funding in the very near future so that health and care leaders in England have the time they need to plan their services and ensure contracts are in place in good time.
The funding has been vital in places like Sussex, which has been able to reduce the average length of stay for patients by 37 per cent.
Siobhan Melia, Chief Executive of Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We have known for years that the very best place for the majority of patients to recover is in their own homes with the appropriate package of support and care. Any delay to their discharge from hospital to their home, or a community setting, can have a significant impact on their recovery.
“While COVID-19 challenged all parts of the NHS one of the positive consequences of the pandemic was the way in which it brought people and organisations together in adversity in a way we’d never really experienced before with the sole aim of doing what was right by our patients and staff in such extraordinary circumstances.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that withdrawing funding for the discharge to assess model will have a detrimental impact on patients, will result in longer waits in hospital, and will make it harder for dedicated NHS and social care staff to deliver the high standards of care patients need and deserve.
“Instead of abolishing funding for discharge to assess our focus should be on looking at how we can build further on the benefits it brings for our patients, staff and the wider NHS and social care system as a whole at a time when all services are under such significant and sustained pressure and rightly focused on recovery.”