£250m boost ‘will ease health crisis’, vows Steve Barclay

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The Health Secretary said the money would fund thousands of extra beds in care homes in order to discharge more patients who are fit to leave hospital. He confirmed £50million of the package would help upgrade and expand hospital facilities for patients about to be discharged.

But Mr Barclay expressed regret, admitting emergency care has “not been acceptable in recent weeks” for some patients and staff.

He said the worst flu season for 10 years has made this winter “particularly tough”.

He told the Commons the number of people in hospital with flu this time last year was 50, but this year it was more than 5,100.

He added: “And these flu pressures come on top of Covid, with over 9,000 people in hospital with Covid, while exceptional levels of scarlet fever activity and an increase in Strep A has created further pressure on A&E. And all of this, of course, comes on top of a high historic starting point.”

Mr Barclay said his recovery plan addressed three areas – the immediate crisis, preparing for next winter, and longer-term prevention of ill health to safeguard the system.

Some of the strain comes from around 13,000 people occupying hospital beds in England who cannot be discharged because of lack of a care plan. The Government plans to book beds in residential homes and boost capacity in A&Es.

He also pointed to the “incredible potential of virtual wards”, which involve treating people at home but enabling them to return to hospital if their condition deteriorates.

The Department of Health and Social Care said up to £200million will be redirected from existing health budgets. The additional £50 million from its capital budget will be used to expand discharge lounges and ambulance hubs.

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