Government unveils spending plans for £36 billion social care fund

The Government has announced that its new £36 billion social care fund will be spent on innovation and new technology.

The investment, which will take place over three years, will pay for new treatments, diagnostic and surgical methods to help see more patients quickly and safely using tools such as surgical hubs, virtual wards and artificial intelligence.

It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the package as a way to help the NHS recover from the coronavirus pandemic and reform the adult social care system so people no longer face catastrophic care costs.

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The majority of the cash is going towards the NHS, with social care receiving £5.3 billion over the next three years.

On Wednesday, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the new funding will see the NHS deliver an extra nine million checks, scans, and operations for patients across the country in a bid to try and drive down waiting times.

It added the new surgical hubs, already used in hospitals such as Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, would help fast-track a number of planned operations, including cataract removal, hysterectomies and hip and knee replacements.

The hubs will be expanded across the country with more expected to be set up at existing hospital sites later on in the year.

Pop-up clinics are also going to be established while virtual wards and home assessments allow for patients to be given medical support from home.

DHSC said Doncaster Bassetlaw Hospital Trust, in Nottinghamshire and South Yorkshire, is an example of the “Hospital at Home” programme, which sees people given an ECG heart monitor device in a “drive-through” style service and get tested while at home rather than in hospital.

“We are going to harness the latest technology and innovative new ways of working such as surgical hubs to deliver the millions more appointments, treatments and surgeries that are needed over the coming months and years to tackle waiting lists.”

With artificial intelligence, surgical robots are being used to conduct complex surgeries.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “This global pandemic has presented enormous challenges for the NHS and led to a growing backlog – we cannot go on with business as usual.

“We are going to harness the latest technology and innovative new ways of working such as surgical hubs to deliver the millions more appointments, treatments and surgeries that are needed over the coming months and years to tackle waiting lists.”

Professor Steve Powis, NHS England medical director, said: “Although the pandemic is still with us and we will have to live with the impact of Covid for some time, the NHS has already made effective use of additional resources to recover services – from adopting the latest technologies to more evening and weekend working, NHS staff are going to great lengths to increase the number of operations carried out.

“The further funding announced this week will support staff to deliver millions more vital checks, tests and operations, so if you have a health concern, please do come forward to receive the care and treatment you may need.”