Vital ‘rescue money’ needed to help discharge patients from hospital is being held up in Government departments rather than being sent into the health system, leaders have claimed.
Last month, the Government promised a £500 million Adult Social Care Discharge Fund in its plan for patient access, intended to help discharge patients from hospital more quickly over the winter.
But NHS leaders are ‘yet to see a single penny’ from the fund or receive any official detail on how it will be allocated, the NHS Confederation has said.
Health leaders warned that local services will struggle to put the investment to good use the longer the delay continues, with primary care and ambulance staff expected to pick up the slack in absence of adequate support.
Peak demand for emergency care services is not typically seen until January, however the average hospital bed occupancy in the NHS currently standing at 97%.
This has been exacerbated by the record number of vacancies in the NHS workforce – standing at well over 130,000.
In the month since she announced the plan at the end of September, former health secretary Dr Therese Coffey has been succeeded by Steve Barclay.
The Confederation called on the new secretary of state for health and social care to release the funding without delay.
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: ‘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 winter rescue funding will be released to the system. So close to winter, this is unbelievable.
‘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.’ He added: ‘Without the immediate release of the Adult Social Care Discharge Fund, the prospect of a winter crisis for the NHS is extremely high and so, the government really does need to act now.’