A policy change to speed up hospital discharge could save the NHS more than £7bn over a decade, according to a government evaluation – but ministers have not funded it.
A Department of Health and Social Care impact assessment of the Health and Care Act, passed earlier this year, says that wider use of discharge to assess could free up as many as 6,000 hospital beds and save the NHS £7bn by 2031, the equivalent of £800m a year. It adds: “The overall societal benefits of this would likely be higher as beds could be allocated to patients with more urgent health care needs.”
The “discharge to assess” approach, which has been used on a temporary basis for several years and more widely during the pandemic – with government funding to back it – sees patients discharged more quickly, and provided with support at home while their long-term care needs are assessed. It was credited with significant reductions in the amount of time patients spent in hospital.
Changes in the Health and Care Act were intended to remove legal obstacles to the approach, by revoking a requirement for an assessments be carried out before discharge, which often leads to delays in the patient leaving hospital.
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Source: 15 November 2022