The Department of Health and NHS England have launched a £400m programme for vulnerable older people to reduce pressure on accident and emergency wards.

Their transforming primary care programme aims to help 800,000 people deemed to have the most complex needs. They are mostly expected to be over the age of 75.

It will offer enhanced services including individual care plans which will be regularly reviewed, a named GP responsible for their care an same-day access to GPs when necessary.

The programme’s funding is already in the NHS. Some £250m is expected to come from clinical commissioning groups from the £5 per head of population which they were required to set aside for enhanced primary care or community services.

The remaining £150m is expected to come from NHS England, from savings made from changes to the GP contract.

The primary care plan was first discussed by health secretary Jeremy Hunt at the NHS Confederation conference in July last year.

He told delegates at the conference that NHS officials had been given a year to develop and implement an action plan to help the “heaviest users of the NHS”.

The “vulnerable older people’s plan” was one of the three areas of focus included in the government’s refreshed mandate for NHS England, published last November.

Mr Hunt said: “Moving nearly a million people onto proactive care plans is one of biggest changes that we need to make in our NHS. People want to know that their parents and relatives will get constant care if they have a long-term condition.

“Many doctors already give great care but I want to make sure this is completely co-ordinated to head off problems and keep people from going to hospital unnecessarily.

The DH and NHS England have also selected twenty pilots schemes across England for a £50m fund for increased access to GP surgeries.

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens said: “By freeing up hard-working family doctors to spend more time with their sickest patients, and by making it easier for other patients to get through to their GP surgery for help and advice at evenings and weekends, these initiatives have the potential to be a win-win-win for patients, their doctors and the NHS.”