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Government Announces £200m Community Care Bed Fund

The government has announced £200 million in short-term funding for the purchase of up to 3000 care beds to tackle the issue of bed blocking in NHS hospitals and free up capacity on overwhelmed A&E wards across the country.

Speaking to this issue, health minister Steve Barclay said the funding would “provide immediate support to reduce hospital bed occupancy and decompress A&E pressure and in turn unlock much needed ambulance handovers.”

This move comes off the back of a £500 million fund announced in September to remove NHS waiting lists and speed up hospital discharges into social care with increased funding.

There are currently 13,000 beds in English hospitals occupied by medically fit to discharge patients, which the Prime Minister described as the NHS’s “number 1 problem”.

This new line of funding will be directed to local NHS authorities to purchase care beds that would allow them to provide temporary step-down care for currently hospital bound, medically fit to discharge patients and offer them treatment in hotels, hospices, and care homes across the country.

The government has previously attempted to deal with the issue of delayed discharge due to a lack of correct care equipment in the community.

In a recent attempt to free up hospital capacity in early 2020, national guidance on patient discharge was changed so that all patients who are medically able to leave hospital, but still need care services, are first discharged to the most appropriate setting before an assessment their more long-term support needs takes place.

Increasing number of patients face delays leaving hospital despite changes to patient discharge guidance with the number of delayed patients rising dramatically from 7500 in May 2021 to 13,000 in May 2022.

Compounding this delayed hospital discharge issue is a community care equipment availability issue.

Between 2012 and 2021, the total number of beds in both nursing care homes and residential care homes for older people declined from 11.3 per 100 people to 9.4 per 100 people — a 16% decrease

This rise demand for social care from an increasingly ageing population will require an improvement on the current availability of community care beds.

The need for a more robust social care system and access to community care equipment will be an ongoing one as the population grows older and lives longer.

In the UK, there are 11 million people aged 65 and over (19% of the total population), in 10 years’ time, this figure will have increased to almost 13 million people (22% of the population).

These demographic forecast are matched with increased funding, with the most recent budget allocating an extra 2.8 billion in 2023/24 and £4.7 billion in 2024/25 in cash terms.

£50 million in capital funding to “improve and expand hospital discharge lounges and ambulance facilities” was also announced.

These recent government announcements are in response to an “winter emergency” for the NHS with ministers are looking to ease pressures, stop bottlenecks and speed up discharge from hospital into the community.

Date Published

10 January 2023

Reading Time

2 minutes

Author avatar

Author

Brian Chege

Brian is a university graduate with a particular interest in researching and writing about healthcare topics, including medical conditions, and current NHS issues and solutions. To ensure his articles are relevant and accurate, Brian uses UK government and private sector reports, and draws on a vast network of independent occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and healthcare professionals to both inform and verify his work.

Elderly man being cared for bed by two nursing attendants. One is male, the other is female.

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