Primary care trusts will be given £70m to spend on care to keep discharged patients out of hospital, health secretary Andrew Lansley announced at the Tory Party conference on Tuesday.
The “re-ablement packages” are aimed at supporting those leaving hospital after illness or injury by providing six weeks of care, such as home visits or physiotherapy.
The extra funding must be spent this financial year, before new rules come into place in April preventing payments to hospitals for additional treatments carried out within 30 days of discharge.
In his keynote speech to the conference, Mr Lansley said: “This means better support for the most vulnerable, when they need it most.”
He also announced plans to extend the mandatory monitoring of hospital infections to include Meticillin Sensitive Staphylococcus Aureus (MSSA) and E. coli infections, both of which have been rising in recent years.
While announcing the funding for PCTs, the health secretary also defended his plans to abolish them along with strategic health authorities and arm’s length bodies.
He said: “It’s not just about spending our money wisely: Stripping out these layers of bureaucracy also sends a very important message to the NHS. You no longer have to wait for a cascade of diktats to tumble down from on high, in order to do your job.”
However, his speech was not a resounding success with conference delegates – many of whom had expressed concern at fringe meetings attended by HSJ about the lack of detail in the reform plans, particularly on the transition to the new system.
However, at an event held a few hours after his speech, Mr Lansley claimed the white paper proposals would improve patient care and help to prevent another scandal like that at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.
He said: “The devolution of responsibility [to clinicians] will make a big difference. The ability to be bullied is very much associated with the fact that we have a top down system where we can focus on things that…aren’t at the forefront of clinical responsibility.”
It would also be important for hospitals to record patient experience in a more systematic way, Mr Lansley said, adding that the national patient surveys were “not fit for purpose”.
He noted the best hospitals were monitoring outcomes data on a ward by ward basis, enabling them to respond quickly to emerging concerns.