The health secretary has pledged £500m to get healthy patients out of hospital to free up beds and ease the crisis in the NHS.
Therese Coffey says there are 13,000 patients on wards who are well enough to be discharged and cared for at home or in the community.
And with the money, taken from existing NHS and departmental budgets, local NHS councils and organizations could create more social care packages.
It also said that just 15 of the 219 NHS trusts in England were responsible for almost half (45%) of all ambulance delivery delays, often caused by a lack of hospital beds, although the Department of Health and Social Care did not share responsibility. data or locations with us.
Ms Coffey said local NHS staff in those areas would be “doing intensive work” to create the equivalent of 7,000 beds by focusing on discharging patients and using technology to monitor people at home, allowing ambulance crews deliver their patients and get back on the road. .
Other measures in the package in England titled Our Plan for Patients – health is an issue delegated to other nations – include a £15m jackpot to hire more care staff from abroad, change pension rules to keep more doctors working and allowing pharmacies to prescribe more drugs without a GP appointment.
She told the Commons: “These measures… are the start, not the end, of our health and care ambitions.
“They will help us manage the pressures that health and care will face this winter and next, and improve these vital services for the long term.”
But Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, said the government was “out of ideas, out of time and out of clues”, and the measures “will not come close to the scale of the challenge facing the NHS”.
He added: “If there’s no plan for staffing, then there’s no real plan for the NHS. As Dr. Dre would say, ‘It’s time for the next episode.'”
The NHS is facing major challenges even before the pressure of winter, with record waiting times, ambulance delays and a high number of staff vacancies.
Prime Minister Liz Truss said that health was one of her priorities and Ms Coffey pledged to tackle the “A, B, C, D” issues: ambulances, delays, social care and appointments with doctors and dentists.
But Streeting said his “Sesame Street” plan left out the “N” for nurses.
Before her announcement, the health secretary said that expected all GPs to see patients in two weeks – and the most urgent cases seen the same day – although his department said this would not be a difficult goal and that there would be no compensation for people who were not seen in that period.
The Royal College of General Practitioners criticized the proposal, saying it was “not a plan” and that Ms Coffey should have spoken to doctors to understand the challenges before “charging a struggling service with more expectations”.
And the NHS Confederation said there was a shortage of more than 4,000 full-time equivalent GPs.
Streeting told Sky’s Kay Burley: “Asking the Conservatives now to fix the crisis in the NHS is a bit like waiting for an arsonist to put out a fire. They’ve caused these problems for the last decade. They don’t have the answers.” .”
Data shows GP waiting times have improved over the last five years
Sky Senior Data Journalist Daniel Dunford writes: “The health secretary’s focus on GP appointments is interesting as the data shows that access to GPs is one of the few parts of the health service that has not collapsed since the pandemic began.
While waiting times for cancer treatment, ambulances, operations and emergencies are at historic lowsGP waiting times have improved over the last five years.
Today, more than 85% of GP appointments are made within two weeks of booking, Ms Coffey’s new target. And more than half of the appointments take place the same day or the day after the reservation.
Ms Coffey’s Labor counterpart, Wes Streeting, noted that the previous Labor government’s target was two days, not two weeks, but both figures quoted above are still improvements on the levels seen five years ago.
Appointments overall are also up, so it’s not that wait times are going down because people are looking elsewhere and demand is down.
However, you are less likely to physically “see” a GP these days. Since the pandemic, many appointments are now being made by phone that were not done before.
But that aspect wasn’t part of Ms Coffey’s announcement, and depending on the complaint you need to talk to your GP about, a phone call may be preferable to having to take the time to travel to surgery.
Additional money for social care will be welcome and should lead to less pressure on other services, but there are other parts of the NHS that could perhaps benefit more from the kind of care that Ms Coffey has provided to GPs. “.