Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay announces launch of new adult social care fund

Today, Health and Social Care Secretary Steve Barclay has delivered a speech at the NHS Providers Conference in Liverpool, covering a number of pertinent topics for the NHS at the present time, including social care, capacity, workforce and access.

One of the topics raised in the speech was the launch of a new £500 million Adult Social Care Discharge Fund, intended to help support integrated care boards and local authorities improve capacity.

“In line with our devolved and data-driven approach, we will allow local areas to determine how we can speed up the discharge of patients out of hospital,” Barclay stated. The manner in which this is achieved may vary; the speech notes that it could mean purchasing supportive technology, boosting domiciliary care capacity or providing funding for physiotherapists or occupational therapists who can support recovery at home.

The first tranche of this funding is to be provided by early December with the second distributed at the end of January 2023.

Barclay added that the government will also be examining the impact of how funding is used, with plans to use the data to inform future decisions on funding, “including a more compelling evaluation capacity to help those discussion with the centre of government.”

He added: “A key direction of travel will to be empower the ICBs much more to harness advances around population level data, with the role of the centre being geared around supporting areas to address those variations in performance – of which, of course, you all play one of the largest parts.”

The speech went on to address the key priority of GP access. Barclay commented on the need to address the bottleneck of access to appointments, ensuring that there is a wider workforce of primary care and progressing a pharmacy-first approach.

He highlighted a need to explore “ways to do things differently” such as “redesigning patient pathways so that all the burden doesn’t fall on GPs”, along with “ensuring a stronger future for health and care in terms of how we use the latest technologies and trends to improve outcomes for patients and make sure that taxpayers’ money is well spent.”

Also on the topic of new ways of working, Barclay commented on the opportunity to promote better use of the NHS app, “which should be much more central to how people access health services.” He said: “I very much welcome that so many GPs are now making their patient records and testing results available on the NHS app, and I think there are significant opportunities to harness the NHS app further – particularly in the context of pressures in primary care, but more widely on preventative medicine.”

In addition, the speech touched upon looking for ways to make greater use of patient data. “I want patients to have more opportunities to share data, on an opt-in basis, to support our great universities, start-ups and scale-ups who are making incredible breakthroughs,” Barclay said. “And through cloud computing, machine learning and the Internet of Things allow for data to be used and interrogated in new ways.”

He noted that this should give the UK a “competitive advantage when it comes to attracting tech pioneers and researchers in the future of health but also help us deliver more, effective, personalised care for patients”, and added that it should sit alongside “basic improvements” like the roll out of electronic patient records and improved Wi-Fi coverage.

Barclay listed his priorities as supporting the workforce, focusing on recovery plans with regards to delayed discharge and primary care access, maintaining momentum on the new hospital building programme, and investing in tech “so we can make it easier to deliver good patient outcomes and better harness our approach on preventative medicine in a way that incentivises patients to provide data for our scientific community – who in turn, enable those treatments to be personalised, and pathways to be streamlined.”

To read the speech in full, please click here.