We need to ensure that the NHS spends every penny as well as it could. By Rachel Byrne

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Despite its relative protection, health spending in the United Kingdom as a share of GDP is falling. Compared with our OECD economic peer group we spend less than the average.

Whilst the UK clearly needs to engage in a sensible conversation about how much we spend on healthcare and what the future holds; that is not the only difficult conversation required.

Rachael Byrne

Rachael Byrne

Rachael Byrne

The NHS doesn’t spend every penny as well as it could. It’s not a comfortable message but there is lots of evidence to support my assertion.

Winter months

The numbers of people attending A&E has increased over recent years from 14 million up to 23 million, with specific peaks over winter months. Equally when people are admitted they stay too long. Delayed discharging is now at record levels.

The figures show 160,000 days lost to delays in October alone – that’s an increase of over a third in five years. As the Nuffield Trust has reported a small proportion of patients – only 3.6 per cent – take up more than a third of hospital bed capacity. This was because they spent long periods in hospital or were readmitted on a regular basis.

Vulnerable patients are getting stuck in hospital when there is an alternative. That’s a service model to support people to manage their health needs in a non-clinical environment preventing unnecessary hospital admissions, and helping people to leave hospital, minimising delays.

It aims to enhance the capacity of health and social care services by drawing upon resources in the housing and support sector that are not typically accessed by first-line health professionals. It needn’t just be a reaction to winter, housing and care services to support the NHS are there all year.

Vulnerable people

Our experience as a housing with care provider in this area has led us to develop a solution with three component parts. Community support for vulnerable people who are recognised as at risk of admission. This support also facilitates access to services which provide aids and adaptations to help people remain at home.

Hospital discharge facilitation that provides additional capacity alongside early assessment enabling patients to return home successfully after treatment, we can and do base housing and care colleagues on wards to make this happen.

Provision of short-term respite or step-down accommodation utilising void rooms in supported housing, sheltered and extra-care. This provides practical support and supervision for clients who are fit for discharge but unable to return home.

Existing resources in the housing sector that are not typically accessed by first-line health professionals, that’s got to change. Building resilience isn’t just for Christmas, it’s for life.

Rachael Byrne is an executive director at Home Group