Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged an extra £3.5bn real terms annual funding for primary and community care by 2023/24, as part of the £20.5bn funding increase for the NHS announced earlier this year.
In the announcement, made yesterday, Mrs May said the money will be used to ensure that more patients are cared for at home and in the community, rather than in hospitals.
Ms May also announced two initiatives: new community-based 24/7 rapid response teams including GPs, nurses and physiotherapists, to care for those who would be better treated at home than in hospital; and a national programme where healthcare professionals, including pharmacists and GPs, are assigned to care homes, and can offer emergency care during out of hours
The new investment in primary and community healthcare will build on the ‘existing NHS budget for these services’ and forms ‘a key part of the long-term plan for the NHS,’ according to the PM’s statement.
‘The new approach we’re setting out today will mean more people can leave hospital quicker, or avoid being admitted in the first place – which is better for patients and better for the health service,’ she said.
Mrs May also claimed that the new funding boost was as a direct result of withdrawing from the European Union.
She said: ‘Leaving the EU means taking back control of our money as we will no longer be sending vast sums to Brussels. This helps our public finances and means we have more money to spend on domestic priorities like our NHS. And we’ve been able to fully fund this historic commitment without raising taxes.’
In June, the Government announced the NHS would receive a £20.5bn funding boost that would be spent according to a long-term plan for the NHS – the full details of which have yet to be revealed.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘This additional funding of £3.5bn 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.’
But acting chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing Professor Dame Donna Kinnair questioned who would run the rapid response teams, given the dwindling nurse workforce.
She said: ‘This announcement begs the question who will operate these bespoke support networks, dedicated healthcare for care residents and rapid response teams. The number of district nurses employed by the NHS, the backbone of community health services, has almost halved since 2010, and the number of community nursing staff overall has dropped by 15%. In addition, cuts to training budgets have prevented nurses from joining the community nursing workforce, prompting further staff shortages.
‘Investing in an expert district nursing workforce and community services must be the priority to keep patients out of hospital’.