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Funding ‘cliff-edge’ threatens to ‘distress’ families and hamper NHS recovery

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Government plans to cut off funding for hospital discharge at the end of March will slow down the NHS recovery of planned care, and threatens ‘distress’ for families asked to quickly take over patients’ care.

Since the pandemic began the Department of Health and Social Care has funded measures to smooth discharge from hospital, to help free up capacity. From September last year this was via a £588m national pot for up to six weeks’ funded care and support after discharge. 

But a letter from NHS England director of community health Matthew Winn last week confirmed the funding will cease at the end of March, with local NHS organisations or councils liable for the continued funding of discharge packages in the 2021-22 financial year.

Jennifer Burns, president of the British Geriatrics Society (BGS), which has previously written to the government to urge an extension of the scheme, told HSJ: “The BGS is incredibly concerned… The disappearance of funding for care in the six-week period after discharge creates a cliff edge in the very near future. We urge the government to reconsider this decision and commit to recurrent discharge funding in the upcoming Budget.”

Miriam Deakin, NHS Providers director of policy and strategy, said the government’s funding had “played a crucial role in freeing up hospital beds [and] managing capacity”, despite the delays caused by other parts of the system during the coronavirus winter surge. 

Ms Deakin warned: “Trust leaders are keen to see this funding continue in the longer term. This new way of working does not come without a financial cost, particularly for community services and their staff who are now much more thinly stretched, supporting patients with a wider range of more complex needs at home and in other community settings. We would therefore urge government to continue discharge to assess funding from April 2021.” 

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Source: HSJ, 18 February 2021

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