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Prime minister pledges £3.5bn for community healthcare

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The NHS Long-term plan will guarantee rising investment in primary and community healthcare to prevent unnecessary hospital stays, the prime minister has announced.

Theresa May said in a statement last night the additional funding would be worth £3.5bn a year in real-terms by 2023-24, “which builds on the existing NHS budget for these services” and would be used to establish rapid response teams providing urgent care and support in the community.

The money will make a “very significant difference to older and disabled people and their families”, vice president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services Julie Ogley said.

“We look forward to spending plans being drawn up with local adult social care systems, and with local health and wellbeing boards,” she added.

But Ms Ogley said further interim funding for adult social care to address immediate pressure, as well as providing a long-term funding solution, would “significantly help planning around community health services and enable… local systems to deliver the most impact.”

Chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board Ian Hudspeth (Con) said the funding would address some pressures on the social care system, but called on the government to reverse a £600m reduction in public health grants and plug a £3.5bn funding gap facing adult social care by 2025 to protect work on prevention.

The prime minister also announced a scheme that assigns healthcare teams including GPs and pharmacists to care homes to provide tailored treatment will be rolled out nationally.

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock recently said increasing the share of the NHS budget spent on primary and community care “can’t wait” and should begin next year.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said the funding pledge would result in “dissolving the 70-year boundary between GP practices and community nursing” and guarantee these services would get “a growing share of the growing NHS budget”.

Responding to the announcement, the Nuffield Trust said the promised £3.5bn was “broadly in line with the 3.4% overall [annual growth] that the NHS in England is getting over the next five years”, based on baseline NHS spending on primary and community care and GP services in 2017-18.

The trust’s senior policy analyst Sally Gainsbury said: “That means that, far from representing a big shift in funding towards out-of-hospital services, this money will simply allow GPs and community services to keep up with demand over the next five years.

“That’s important, but it means the new money announced today is not going to lead to a significant change in the way that people experience healthcare.”

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