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NHS yet to see ‘a single penny’ of promised £500m emergency fund

Hospitals and care homes have not received a single penny of a £500m emergency fund promised by the government to prevent the NHS becoming overwhelmed this winter, the Guardian has learned.

Ministers announced they were injecting the cash into the health and social care system last month, to help get thousands of medically fit patients out of hospital into either their own home or a care home as soon as possible in an effort to better prepare the NHS for the coming months.

“At the moment, one of the key challenges is discharging patients from hospital into more appropriate care settings to free up beds and help improve ambulance response times,” Thérèse Coffey, the then health and social care secretary, said on 22 September. “To tackle that, I can announce today that we are launching a £500m adult social care discharge fund for this winter.”

However, the Guardian has been told that none of the funding has materialised. Senior health and social care sources described the government’s failure to release the promised cash as “inexplicable” and “outrageous”.

More than 13,000 of the 100,000 NHS hospital beds in England currently contain “delayed discharge” patients, which has led to A&E units becoming heavily congested and long delays in ambulance handovers. As a direct result, thousands of 999 patients are suffering potential “severe harm” every month because ambulances are stuck outside hospitals.

“Leaders across the NHS and local authorities are yet to see a single penny of this investment or any official detail on how it will be allocated,” said Matthew Taylor, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation.

“Currently, only two-fifths of patients in hospital are able to leave when they are ready to do so, including due to problems accessing social care, yet health leaders still do not know how and when the £500m will be released to the system. So close to winter, this is unbelievable.

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Source: The Guardian, 31 October 2022


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