PM pledges £3.5bn annual boost for NHS community services
Prime minister Theresa May has pledged an extra £3.5 billion per year annual funding for NHS primary and community healthcare in England.
The spending is part of the NHS long term plan, backed by £20.5 billion over the next five years, and is intended to improve care in the home and release pressure on overcrowded hospitals.
Funding will go toward 24/7 community-based rapid response teams, consisting of doctors, nurses and physiotherapists who will provide urgent care for patients at home.
Cash will also fund healthcare professionals in care homes, where teams including pharmacists and GPs will offer emergency care out of hours.
The government estimates that around a third of people stay in hospital longer than they need to because of a lack of social care capacity.
May said in a statement: “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.”
May said that leaving the EU is allowing the government more money to spend on public finances and domestic priorities.
She said: “We’ve been able to fully fund this historic commitment without raising taxes.”
Health secretary Matt Hancock added: “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 off our hard working NHS staff.”
But GPs have called for more details about the plans, and urged the government to invest in surgeries to keep pace with demands on services.
Dr Richard Vautrey, BMA GP committee chair, said: “We have been clear that general practice needs an urgent increase in investment to address the pressures affecting the profession and patients, and while this announcement is an important step forward, we will be seeking urgent assurance that this really is new investment for general practice and we will want early discussions on the detail of where the money will be spent.
“The government has said this funding will reach £3.5bn a year by 2023, but it is also imperative that there is no delay in it reaching the frontline as soon as possible. Hard-working doctors are leaving the profession as they battle rising demands and unsafe workloads, while patients are facing longer waits to be seen, so five years may well be too long to wait if we are to see a reverse in this worrying trend.”
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