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Discharge from Hospital: Covid-19 Outbreak

Volume 707: debated on Tuesday 18 January 2022

1. What steps his Department is taking to support the effective discharge of patients from hospital during the covid-19 outbreak. (905075)

We are working closely with the NHS, social care and local authorities to significantly reduce delayed discharge and free up beds for those who need them most. We are making full use of non-acute beds, including those in hospices, other community beds and beds in the independent sector. To drive further progress and support regional and local systems, I also established a new national taskforce last month to help deliver best practice.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer. Many people would like to leave hospital when their treatment is completed, but they are not quite well enough to cope alone at home. That is obviously frustrating for them, because they want their independence, it creates problems for hospitals, which need the beds, and it costs the taxpayer unnecessary money. Does my right hon. Friend therefore agree that the development of a strategy to provide intermediate care to support discharge would help alleviate pressure on both the NHS and the social care sector?

I do agree with my hon. Friend. That is why, as part of our continued response to the covid-19 pandemic, on 2 December last year NHS England asked local systems to consider ways to increase patient flow out of acute hospital settings. That includes surge capacity in care homes, identifying unused hospice capacity and, in some cases, repurposing hotel accommodation where appropriate. NHS England is reporting to me on this regularly, and it is something that we will closely monitor progress on.

The Government’s own impact assessment of discharge to assess in the Health and Care Bill, which was published almost two months after the Bill was voted on, expects unpaid carers to have to give up working hours and bear the financial burdens of the discharge to assess policy. In the light of that assessment will the Government provide greater support to unpaid carers, or will they actually reconsider this policy?

Throughout the pandemic especially we have been providing more and more support, quite rightly, across the care sector, including for domiciliary care in care homes and unpaid carers. We have made £3.3 billion of extra funding and support available since March 2020.

Kettering General Hospital is a 500-bed medium general hospital, and I am afraid that too many, mainly elderly, people who have completed their medical treatment still await discharge back into the community in a safe way. Will the Secretary of State ensure that the national taskforce is sent to Northamptonshire to help us deal with this issue?

My hon. Friend is right to raise this issue. It is of increasing concern, especially as we have seen hospitalisations rise because of the omicron wave. I believe that the national taskforce is already looking at Northamptonshire. If it is not, I will certainly make sure it does.

Around 10,000 medically fit people are currently in hospital when they should be at home with their families or in a supported setting. That is a tragedy for them and a mark of shame on this Government. Short-term cash, taskforces or threatening legal action are not solutions. Social care support is a lifeline not a luxury, so will the Government now work with us cross-party in line with the joint Select Committee report of 2018 to bring forward immediate change and offer hope and respite to those receiving and giving social care?

First, may I welcome the hon. Lady to her new position and wish her all the very best? She will have heard in a previous answer that social care and those who provide social care, which is such a vital act and such a vital service throughout our country, are receiving record amounts of support—£3.3 billion of extra financing since March 2020. Of course I would be more than happy to work with her and her colleagues to see whether there is more that we can do together.