Government plans to ensure more NHS patients are cared for at home and in their community to avoid them going into hospital unnecessarily were welcomed by community healthcare leaders.
The Prime Minister pledged this week to cut needless hospital admissions and help inpatients return home sooner – through community-based rapid response teams and dedicated support for care home residents.
Matthew Winn, chair of the Community Network, which was established by the NHS Confederation and NHS Providers, said: “The increase in funding of primary care medical services and community health services is a hugely welcome step forward.
“The largest numbers of patients receive their care and support in these services and therefore the new funding for them is vital.”
The announcement was also cautiously welcomed by Dr Barbara Rushton, co-chair of NHS Clinical Commissioners. She said: "NHS Clinical Commissioners have long been talking about the importance of treating people out of hospital when appropriate, so we are pleased to see the Prime Minister recognise this and provide a much-needed boost to primary and community healthcare.
"However, we must be careful not to simply shift pressure from hospitals to primary and community care; the NHS does not currently have the community or domiciliary workforce to guarantee that patients can be kept safe and well at home at times when their health deteriorates, which is why so many patients end up in hospital. There must be a robust plan in place to increase and diversify the workforce to meet the needs of, and get the best outcomes for, our patients and populations.”
The 24/7 rapid response teams are made up of doctors, nurses and physiotherapists and will provide urgent care and support in the community as an alternative to hospital. This includes emergency treatment as well as support to help patients recover closer to home, which will help people stay healthy and independent for longer.
The Prime Minister set out a major new investment in primary and community healthcare – worth £3.5 billion a year in real terms by 2023/4 – which builds on the existing NHS budget for these services.
Mrs May said: “Too often people end up in hospital not because it’s the best place to meet their needs but because the support that would allow them to be treated or recover in their own home just isn’t available.
“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.”
She added: “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.”
Analysis suggests that over a third of hospital admissions from care homes are avoidable.
The Prime Minister set out a further measure today that will help care home residents get more personalised, convenient and timely care where they live.
She 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.
Mr Winn said the investment will also ‘ensure that all local areas across England can now implement robust models of integrated care’.
He said: “This will ensure that local residents will receive care that no longer is disjointed and supports them to live well in their own homes.
“Working together, primary and community health services will make large changes in supporting local residents, especially frail people, that reduces the number of times people are admitted to acute hospitals and allows them to stay well as they get older.”