NHS Providers responds to Steve Barclay statement on winter pressures

09 January 2023

In response to a statement by health and social care secretary Steve Barclay today, NHS Providers' interim chief executive Saffron Cordery said:

"It is right that more funding is being made available to free more NHS beds for patients who need them when rising pressure from flu, COVID-19 and delayed discharges have put health and care services under immense strain.

"As the health and social care secretary acknowledged today, this is an 'extraordinarily difficult time' for the whole health and care system.

"But given the severe pressure the NHS has been under for many months, trust leaders will ask whether this announcement is too little too late to deal with what many warned last year would be the worst winter on record.

"Leaders across the NHS will be seeking urgent clarification that the funding announced today is 'new' money rather than being drawn from existing NHS budgets.

"They will also want assurances that the £200m will be distributed immediately if it is to have a real impact on the current pressures facing the NHS. It is vital that the delays so far in distributing the £500m adult social care discharge fund, when it was urgently needed on the frontline and could have made a real difference, are avoided this time.

"We know it isn't good for patients to remain in hospital once they are well enough to return home or to other community settings. We look forward to seeing the innovations being explored by the 'Discharge Frontrunners' to free up more hospital beds alongside the work being done by trusts and their social care colleagues who will be working hard to ensure any intermediary care offered supports people appropriately.

"But they will also want clarification over what happens when this funding runs out in March. Nobody working in health and care wants to find themselves back at square one with delayed discharges or handover delays creeping up to such challenging levels again.

"And while an extra £50m in capital funding to expand hospital discharge lounges and ambulance hubs to minimise delays handing over patients sounds good in theory, questions will rightly be asked about how quickly and efficiently the NHS estate can be restructured to implement these changes given the pressures we are being confronted with right now.

"Trusts will also be seeking urgent reassurances that they will be given the freedom and flexibility to spend this capital funding on innovations and priorities locally to help best minimise handover delays.

"We need to avoid a situation where the health service keeps being presented with a series of short-term initiatives to fix the NHS when what we really need is a long, hard look at what health and social care really needs over the longer term to put it on a sustainable footing."