Therese Coffey has pledged to combat the NHS bed lockdown crisis with the launch of a £500m emergency fund.
The Secretary for Health and Social Care told MPs the money will help free up space in hospitals while revealing her own nine-hour wait at A&E.
The beleaguered ambulance services will also be supported by a new army of volunteer first responders in a bid to reduce delays. More than 13,000 beds in England – around one in seven – are occupied by patients who have been deemed medically fit to leave.
But the shortage of carers means they face difficulties finding a place in care or help at home. Care providers will be encouraged to use the fund to help fill 165,000 vacancies.
Staff may be offered more generous bonuses, pay raises or overtime to prevent them from moving on to higher-paying jobs in retail. There will also be a push to attract more care workers from abroad, with £15m available to cover areas such as visa applications and accommodation.
Miss Coffey described the £500m as a “down payment” as ministers work to rebalance funding across health and social care.
But care charities last night dismissed the sum as ‘insulting’. Delayed downloads cost the NHS up to £5.5m a day, while a record 6.8m languish on waiting lists.
Therese Coffey (pictured) has vowed to combat the NHS bed lockdown crisis with the launch of a £500m emergency fund
The fund is among a series of measures in the Government’s Our Patient Plan, which was published yesterday in a campaign to prevent a collapse of the NHS this winter.
The Secretary of Health revealed that she was motivated to address poor care after suffering her own ordeal at A&E in July, when she waited nearly nine hours to see a doctor and still received no treatment.
She said: ‘I was asked to come back the next day so I went to a different hospital just three miles away and was seen and treated properly.
“That’s the kind of variation we’re seeing in the NHS.” But Mike Padgham, president of the Independent Care Group, said the money “will not touch the sides.”
He said: ‘Announcing this £500m as if it is the answer to our prayers is insulting. This is an adhesive bandage that a doctor puts on an open wound and doesn’t see how sick the patient is.
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting has criticized Miss Coffey’s ‘Sesame Street’ plan, which he has called ‘A, B, C, D’: ‘ambulances, delays, attention and doctors and dentists’
Miss Coffey, pictured, also promised a “laser-like approach” to ambulance delivery delays and revealed that 45 per cent occur in just 15 NHS hospital trusts, which will receive “intensive” support to improve .
Hospitals will open the equivalent of 7,000 more beds and use “remote monitoring” in people’s own homes, while the number of 999 and NHS 111 call controllers will increase.
The Government will also be ‘exploring the creation of an auxiliary ambulance service’.
Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting has criticized Miss Coffey’s ‘Sesame Street’ plan, which he has called ‘A, B, C, D’: ‘ambulances, delays, attention and doctors and dentists’.
And former Conservative health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “This is not about more targets the NHS needs, it’s about more doctors.”
Can Coffey’s Medicine Cure Real Illnesses Facing Medical Care?
Analysis by Shaun Wooler, health correspondent for The Daily Mail
The Health Secretary quickly zeroed in on the health and social care issues that anger patients and delivered a welcome plan to address them.
But Therese Coffey’s plan, dubbed Our Patient Plan, is at risk of being dismissed as a “wish list” as critics warn there are too few doctors, nurses and caregivers to achieve her goals.
Parliamentarians, charities, trade bodies and health think tanks have all rejected the document, saying it does not do enough to address chronic staff shortages.
The scale of the problem is huge: the NHS is short of more than 100,000 employees, one in ten nursing jobs is vacant, and adult social care needs a further 165,000 workers. Many in the industry believe the £500m social care ‘down payment’ announced yesterday is unlikely to be enough to make a significant difference.
Here we look at the patient priorities that Miss Coffey has identified, or ABCDs as she calls them, and why a shortage of NHS employees may make it difficult to deliver on her plan.
A – Ambulances
Heart attack and stroke patients face hour-long waits for an ambulance as crews are stuck outside A&E unable to unload patients and respond to new calls. Hospitals need to discharge medically fit patients so there are beds for new cases, but a shortage of caregivers means there is nowhere to go for these fragile people.
Caregivers can often earn more by working in retail, and trade bodies say the plan doesn’t provide funds to offer all workers the wage increases needed to retain or attract enough staff.
Ambulances are a priority as heart attack and stroke patients face hour-long waits while crews are stuck outside A&E unable to unload patients and answer new calls.
B – Backlog
Hospital waiting lists are at a record 6.8 million and ministers accept this number is likely to rise before falling.
The shortage of doctors, nurses and available hospital beds limit the admission rate of patients.
The British Medical Association says the pension changes don’t go far enough to prevent more doctors from cutting their hours or retiring early. And the Royal College of Nursing is voting its members on industrial action in a wage dispute.
C – Care
Liz Truss wants to scrap the Health and Social Care Tax funded through the national insurance increase and has pledged to spend £13bn on social care through other means, but has not yet provided details. Meanwhile, care providers are grappling with skyrocketing food and energy bills and say they don’t have enough money to fund staff pay increases.
Ministers must provide more funds to be able to offer competitive salaries to staff, meaning fewer people are attracted to jobs in other sectors, they say.
Liz Truss (pictured with Mrs Coffey) wants to scrap the health and social care tax funded through increased national insurance and has pledged £13bn to social care.
D – Physicians and Dentists
There are now fewer fully qualified full-time equivalent GPs than there were in 2015, but the population is aging and living with more complex conditions.
The Royal College of GPs says this means it’s unrealistic to expect doctors to be able to see all the patients who want an appointment as quickly as they’d like. Nine out of ten NHS dental practices have closed their books to new adult patients, with the British Dental Association blaming a lack of government funding for dentists to turn to private work.