Health

Post-hospital care given extra £70m

Elderly man
Image caption "Re-ablement" is seen as vital in reducing hospital re-admissions

More money is being made available to the NHS in order to improve care for elderly people who are discharged from hospitals in England.

The extra £70m is for "re-ablement": six-week packages of support which help vulnerable patients adjust to life back home after illness or injury.

Such schemes are already in place in about two-thirds of England.

But ministers want to improve this figure as part of a push to reduce the number of hospital re-admissions.

Responsibility for looking after patients recovering from conditions like hip fractures lies both with the NHS and social services.

Sometimes, though, these patients can slip through the gap, with each organisation wrongly arguing the other is taking responsibility.

As a result, these patients often struggle to get access to the services they need, typically increasing both their recovery times and their chances of having to be re-admitted.

This problem is cited as one of the major reasons for a rise in recent years in the number of emergency hospital re-admissions.

These are distressing for patients and cost a significant amount of money.

Penalties

Many councils, working in partnership with local NHS trusts, have sought to improve the support - such as physios, rehab services and nursing care - available to such patients.

From next year, hospitals will even face financial penalties if patients are readmitted within a month.

This funding, which was initially proposed by Labour when it was in power, aims to help the NHS prepare for this by ensuring more people get access to the support they need.

The government estimates it will benefit 35,000 people by the end of the year. The funding has been found from efficiency savings within the Department of Health's own budget.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said it was about making people "once again independent in their own homes".

He added: "Too many patients don't get the seamless effective service they should when they leave hospital."

Michelle Mitchell, from Age UK, said the funding was vital to improve services.

She said: "Re-ablement can also help older people to carry on living in their own homes rather than going into a care home, and can rebuild confidence and capabilities to enable them to live fuller lives than would otherwise be possible."

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