The Department of Health is to make an extra £162m available for frontline services after a successful efficiency drive, the health secretary has announced.

Andrew Lansley said savings made in consultancy, IT, administration and advertising would be used to help patients to leave hospital more quickly, receive support at home, and to prevent unnecessary admissions to hospital.

The money will be given to primary care trusts and local authorities, who will decide how best to use the funding to relieve additional pressures on hospitals over the winter period.

Mr Lansley said: “Savings have been made in the Department of Health’s budget which can now be invested in frontline NHS services.

“It’s really important, particularly at this time of year, that we help people to leave hospital as quickly as they can, when they are ready.

“The latest figures show that 2,575 beds are unavailable due to delayed transfers of care.”

The health secretary added that older people often needed particular support after a spell in hospital to settle back into their homes, recover their strength and regain their independence.

Mr Lansley went on: “This additional investment for health and care services is the result of determination to deliver savings, maintain quality and invest in services that matter to patients and their families and carers during the critical winter season.”

The funding will bring forward plans being put in place by health and local authorities to work together using NHS funding to support social care, as announced in the government spending review.

The Department of Health said the extra £162m of funding was in addition to the previously announced £70m that the NHS will spend this year on “reablement” services.

The efficiency savings had been made by applying controls over central spending on consultancy, IT, administration and advertising common across all of government, the department said.