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UK health secretary pledges emergency £240m cash injection to help free up hospital beds this winter

An emergency £240m cash injection will be given to the social care sector in the UK to help ease the pressure on the NHS this winter.

The funding will be routed through local councils and will be spent on packages of care to free up hospital beds, either through enabling people to go home quickly, or preventing older people from coming into hospital unnecessarily.

The plans are set to be announced today by health secretary Matt Hancock at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham.

He will suggest the £240m for adult social care could buy 71,500 domestic care packages, or 86,500 reablement packages.

Mr Hancock is expected to say: “I have already provided funding for hospitals to make upgrades to their buildings to deal with pressures this winter.

“And I can announce that today I am making an extra £240 million available to pay for social care packages this winter to support our NHS.

“We will use this money to get people who don’t need to be in hospital, but do need care, back home, back into their communities, so we can free up those vital hospital beds and help people who really need it get the hospital care they need.”

The funding is part of a “package of measures” to help the health sector in the UK this winter, including expanding same-day emergency care, ensuring primary care extended access and additional general practice appointments.

The Government says it has given the NHS over £145m to improve emergency care ahead of winter, which has been spent on 81 new schemes to upgrade wards, A&E departments and on improving systems for managing the number of beds in use.

Last winter, it was reported that tens of thousands of patients had surgeries cancelled and hospitals had to create makeshift wards due to demand for beds.

Many patients faced delays while waiting for a bed, including 1,000 waiting over 12 hours in January, according to NHS England data.