Thousands of extra medically fit patients will be discharged from hospitals into community care settings, such as care homes, over the coming weeks to free up hospital beds and reduce pressure on the NHS, the Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay is set to announce today.

The government will make available up to £200 million of additional funding to immediately buy short-term care placements to allow people to be discharged safely from hospitals into the community where they will receive the care they need to recover before returning to their homes.

The move will free up hospital beds so people can be admitted more quickly from A&E to wards, reducing pressure on emergency departments and speeding up ambulance handovers. There are currently around 13,000 people occupying hospital beds in England who are fit to be discharged.

In a statement in Parliament later today, the Health and Social Care Secretary will outline a series of measures to address current pressures facing the NHS over winter, including long waits for emergency care and delays to discharging patients who are medically fit to leave hospital.

Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay said:

The NHS is under enormous pressure from Covid and flu, and on top of tackling the backlog caused by the pandemic, Strep A and upcoming strikes, this winter poses an extreme challenge.

I am taking urgent action to reduce pressure on the health service, including investing an additional £200 million to enable the NHS to immediately buy up beds in the community to safely discharge thousands of patients from hospital and free up hospital capacity, on top of the £500 million we’ve already invested to tackle this issue.

In addition, we are trialling six National Discharge Frontrunners (none in the south-west) which could reduce discharge delays, moving patients from hospital to home more quickly.

Getting people out of hospital on time is more important than ever. It’s good for patients and it helps hospitals make space for those who need urgent care.

We’re launching six Discharge Frontrunners to lead the way with innovations to help get people out of hospital and back home.

Winter is always hard for the NHS and social care, and this year especially with flu in high circulation. That’s why we provided the £500 million Adult Social Care Discharge Fund earlier in the winter.

As well as helping people right now, we’re looking ahead to make our health and care system work better next winter and beyond. These problems are not new but now is the time to fix them for the future.

People eligible for a Covid booster and flu vaccine are advised to take up the offer as soon as possible to protect themselves and others, and reduce pressure on the NHS.