Cuts to hospital discharge programme fuel crisis

NHS England’s response to the new austerity embodied in Rishi Sunak’s spending review from last autumn has been to slash Hospital Discharge Programme (HDP) funding for the accelerated discharge of patients. 

As a result almost every hospital trust, facing huge financial pressures this financial year, has opted to axe the additional support that many admit had helped to free up beds so that emergency and elective patients can be admitted.

The system, often branded “discharge to assess” was never perfect. Funding was introduced in March 2020: but in August new DHSC guidance to hospital trusts announced that the additional funding to support out of hospital “post discharge recovery and support services” would cease … six weeks after patients had been discharged.

And despite this system being widely branded as “discharge to assess” it soon became clear that it was often basically “discharge regardless.” In many areas assessments were delayed – or resources were lacking to provide for the patients’ assessed needs. A year later, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) published a survey of almost all 152 social services councils in England, revealing a backlog of 75,000 disabled and older people waiting for help with their care and support.

But now, since April 1, even that limited support has been pulled away, creating an extra financial and service nightmare. Bath Swindon and Wiltshire CCG has said HDP funding last year was £30m, and the loss of it has resulted in “Difficult conversations with system partners…”.

Full story in The Lowdown, 7 June 2022