Responding to NHS England and NHS Improvement’s Phase 3 letter, Andrew Ridley, chair of the Community Network, which is hosted by the NHS Confederation and NHS Providers, said:
“The next few months will be even more challenging for community health services than those just passed, so this guidance provides some welcome clarity on the route ahead.
“However, we note that the finances for the NHS provider sector as a whole are only confirmed for a further two months. We would encourage government to continue to work with the national NHS bodies to ensure the NHS has certainty of funding to continue to battle COVID-19 alongside restarting other services.
“Community health services face a long tail of COVID-19 patients with complex rehabilitation needs at the same time as they phase back in non-COVID services and prepare for winter, with the parallel risks of a bad flu season and a potential second wave of COVID-19.
“We are glad to see the discharge to assess model continued for the remainder of 2020/21, and want to see it adopted permanently in a safe way given its benefits for patient care and flow throughout the health and care system. The focus on community crisis provision is also important, although these services require additional investment to realise the ambitions set out in the long term plan.
“Community providers stand ready to work closely with social care colleagues over the summer to prepare for tackling the backlog of NHS Continuing Healthcare assessments from September. However, we are concerned that funding and workforce constraints will bring back tensions that the lack of bureaucracy during the pandemic bypassed.
“We are looking to the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England and NHS Improvement to help reduce this bureaucracy on a longer term basis so that lengthy negotiations about funding don’t have a negative impact on people’s care or capacity in the system.”