More NHS patients will be cared for at home and in their community to avoid them going into or staying in hospital unnecessarily, Prime Minister, Theresa May, has announced, as she pledged to cut ‘needless’ hospital admissions and help inpatients return home sooner – through community-based ‘rapid response teams’ and dedicated support for care home residents.
Setting out ‘a major new investment in primary and community healthcare’ – worth £3.5 bn annually in real terms by 2023/4, and part of the Long Term Plan for the NHS – she said the ‘24/7 rapid response teams’, made up of doctors, nurses, and physiotherapists, would provide urgent care and support in the community as an alternative to hospital, including both emergency treatment and support to help patients recover closer to home, ‘to help people stay healthy and independent for longer’.
She added: “We can make this commitment, which was fully funded at the Budget, because of our strong public finances –and the fact we will no longer be sending an annual membership subscription to the EU.
“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 that 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.”
The Department of Health says that as many as a third of people in hospital stay longer than they need to, often because they can’t get treatment close to home. It said: “As well as the pressure this puts on the health service, staying in hospital can be bad for patients’ health. The evidence shows that for older people, 10 days in a hospital bed leads to the equivalent of 10 years of muscle ageing – risking their health and reducing their independence.”
The Prime Minister also announced ‘the national roll-out of a successful pilot’ that sees healthcare professionals assigned to care homes where they get to know individual residents’ needs and can provide tailored treatment and support. The teams include pharmacists and GPs who can also offer emergency care out of hours.
Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “This additional funding of £3.5 billion a year by 2023/24 demonstrates our commitment to primary and community healthcare, capable of relieving the burden on our hospitals over the coming years, and revolutionising the way high-quality care is delivered for our most vulnerable patients.”