A £500 million fund to boost social care in the UK, and changes to pension tax regulations to prevent the migration of senior doctors away from the NHS, are at the heart of the a “patient plan” announced by the UK government on Thursday.
Speaking against the backdrop of a besieged health service, with a record 7 million patients waiting for non-urgent care, Health Secretary Therese Coffey said she expected the backlog “to increase. up before falling as more patients come in for diagnosis and treatment after the pandemic.”
Coffey said a new adult social care fund “will help accelerate the safe discharge of patients from the hospital to free up hospital beds and help retain and recruit more care workers.” .
With 13,000 patients in the hospital who need care in the community, “this will improve flow in emergency departments and help reduce ambulance delays,” she added. The measure builds on a similar scheme that has proven successful during the Covid-19 emergency.
Coffey has also committed to providing the equivalent of 7,000 extra beds across the UK, including 2,500 “virtual beds” with patients being monitored remotely by clinicians, to reduce pressure on hospitals and speed up desks ambulance delivery.
However, Labor has faced the government’s failure to defuse the NHS workforce crisis. Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, accused Coffey of lacking a plan to fill more than 130,000 vacancies, while observers said her blueprint was “just a little bit more than tinkering with tinkering” “.
Sally Warren, director of policy at the King’s Fund Advisory, said that while the new discharge fund will ease some of the pressure on hospitals, it is “a short-term cash flow, announcements”. short term will not help social care services. unmet need, improve quality of care, or recruit and retain more staff”.
Miriam Deakin, deputy chief executive officer of NHS Providers, which represents hospital, mental health, community and ambulance services, said fund leaders will be looking for “clear reassurance that this funding will not be taken from the NHS budget, which is already severely strained.”
Jeremy Hunt, a former medical secretary, has urged Coffey to rethink the pledge that patients seeking an appointment with a GP will be offered an appointment within two weeks. “It’s not about more than the NHS needs, but more doctors,” he said.
Coffey took aim at inconsistent performance across the country, warning that there was “too much variation in the access and care people receive”.
But in a surprise announcement, she ruled out canceling the goal that people should wait no more than four hours in A&E, a move backed by NHS England. “I believe it matters,” she told MPs.
Meanwhile, dentists will have to publicly announce whether they are taking on new NHS patients, and GPs will have to tell the time from booking to appointment with the effort. give patients greater control over their care.
Chancellor Liz Truss, who has described “reaching” the NHS as one of her top priorities, said the measures were “the first part of that plan and will get the country through the winter”. and more”.
Amid concerns about the pension scheme that are forcing many senior doctors to reduce working hours or retire early, Coffey has announced changes to reduce the risk of employees breaching their annual savings allowance and facing with taxes due to high inflation.
Under another key measure, all NHS employers from next year will be required to offer employees the option to receive their employer’s pension in cash contributions. The move is intended to prevent doctors from retiring early because they lost their employer contributions when they opted out of the program.
Dr Vishal Sharma, chair of the pensions committee at the British Medical Association, said the announcement showed “the government is finally on alert to the risk of doctors retiring in record numbers”. But he added that its proposals “provide only adhesive patches and not the long-term solution the NHS desperately needs to retain doctors”.
Separately, the government has announced a bill to reverse the health and social care tax, introduced in April this year, which is expected to increase by around £13 billion a year. The national insurance rate will be reduced from November. This tax will then not take effect as a separate tax from April 2023 as previously planned.
However, the bill did confirm that funding for health and social care services “would be maintained at the same level as when the tax rate was in place”.