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The UK Government has announced a £7 billion package for health and social care services to support the next phase of the NHS response to COVID-19.

It comes as health and social care workers have come under significant pressure during the pandemic, caring for thousands of patients while continuing to provide urgent treatment for those who need it.

According to the government, the multi-billion-pound support package will ensure the NHS can continue to provide the mental health and occupational health support services it has put in place for nurses, paramedics, therapists, pharmacists, and other staff working on the frontline during the pandemic.

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As part of the package, the NHS will receive £6.6 billion in additional funding over the next six months to support the continuation of the NHS response to COVID-19 and the recovery of elective services as hospitalisations continue to fall.

This brings the UK Government’s total package of additional support given to health services for COVID-19 to £92 billion, with £63 billion this year and £29 billion for next year.

The £6.6 billion cash injection will also support the hospital discharge programme, primary care costs, infection control measures and long COVID services.

In addition, the government has announced an extra £341 million for adult social care to enable the continuation of rigorous infection prevention control measures and to support rapid testing to keep staff and residents safe in day care, respite care, care homes and other community care settings.

This will support the protection of some of the most vulnerable in society as the government begins to cautiously ease restrictions and reintroduce visits to care homes.

As hospital admissions fall and more people receive a vaccine, the NHS will be able to start increasing elective care procedures, such as hip replacements or cataract surgery, ensuring people across England get the care and treatment that they need.

To support this, £594 million has been ring-fenced to continue the hospital discharge programme so staff will have the resources needed to enable patients to leave hospital as quickly and as safely as possible, with the right community or at-home support. This will free up thousands of extra beds and staff time to help the NHS recover services, the government says.

Alongside this, an additional £87 million will provide enhanced discharge from inpatient mental health care, enabling people who are well enough to leave hospital with additional support to help them recover in the community. Funding will be available over the next nine months for short-term support and may be used to offer support in homes to help people cope with things like daily routines, tenancy, finances, personal care or employment, to provide temporary accommodation or to adapt homes.

This funding forms part of the £500 million for mental health and the NHS workforce announced at Spending Review.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “We’ve backed the NHS at every point in this pandemic, so they can treat patients, stay safe and save lives.

“We’re backing them again today with a further £6.6 billion of funding for the first half of this financial year, including £594 million towards safe hospital discharge. I can announce £341 million to support adult social care with the costs of infection prevention control and testing that will make sure visits are safe for everyone.

“We will also be extending enhanced discharge arrangements for mental health patients.”

The additional £341 million for adult social care takes the total infection control fund to almost £1.35 billion and support for rapid testing to £288 million, with the money helping to keep residents and staff safe while supporting visiting in line with the latest guidance.

This funding is in addition to free PPE and further support for designated settings to ensure safe hospital discharge.

The Welsh Government has also recently announced support for NHS and social care workers in Wales, by giving them a one-off payment that is equivalent to £735 each. This is to recognise their “extraordinary” contributions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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