The Department of Health has made an extra £162 million available to local health and care services to spend this year on helping people to leave hospital more quickly, access support services and equipment at home, and avoid unnecessary readmissions.
The announcement aims to address the health challenges posed by the winter period. It follows the publication of the NHS Outcomes Framework, which outlines how the NHS Commissioning Board will oversee the roles of GP commissioning and patient choice in achieving health outcomes.
The new funding will kick-start the collaboration of health and local authorities in using NHS funding to support social care - and in particular, the care of elderly patients. Anticipated measures include investment in equipment and services to address long-term conditions, disability and rehabilitation.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "Older people often need particular support after a spell in hospital to settle back into their homes, recover their strength and regain their independence. This money will enable the NHS and social care to work better together for the benefit of patients."
Lansley noted that over 2,500 hospital beds are currently unavailable due to delays in transferring care to social services.
Sending patients home
The new funding will be allocated to councils via PCTs, to be spent specifically on social care support in order to relieve the pressures on hospitals. Services that could be invested in include:
• short-term residential care places, respite and intermediate care
• home care support, including equipment, adaptations and telecare
• investment in reablement and rehabilitation services to reduce the need for ongoing care.
A further £300 million will be provided by 2014-15 for reablement and rehabilitation services, including homecare equipment services and occupational therapists.
Care Services Minister Paul Burstow said: "By reinvesting these NHS savings in social care we can offer more help more support to older people leaving hospital. This money will help cut the delays in getting the equipment and adaptations that people can need to enable them to live independently at home - saving them from an unnecessary stay in hospital or going into residential care."
Dr Ros Altmann, Director General of Saga, commented: "The fact that over 2,500 people are stuck in hospital for the want of a proper local authority care plan is shocking - and it is good news that the Government has at last recognised that more needs to be done to make the care system fit for purpose."
Measuring health outcomes
The first NHS Outcomes Framework, published in December 2010, follows the NHS White Paper in placing emphasis on patient outcomes rather than centrally-driven process targets.
The framework provides a national overview of what the NHS will aim for with regard to patient outcomes, and how the NHS Commissioning Board will be responsible for securing those outcomes by overseeing how the GP consortia commission services and respond to patient choice.
The priorities outlined relate to five aspects of healthcare: preventing premature death, care of people with long-term conditions, assisting recovery from illness and injury, ensuring a positive experience of care, and preventing avoidable harm to patients.
A consultation document on public health outcomes has also been published to complement the NHS Framework. Its priorities include protecting the population from major health emergencies and tackling factors that affect health and wellbeing.
Andrew Lansley commented: "We need to focus on outcomes and their robust, continuing measurement. Our focus on improving health outcomes will give the NHS, public health organisations and local government a benchmark for what the public expect to see from their health services."
New funding supports homecare and independence of elderly patients