A new £3.5 billion annual investment has been announced by the government, which will aim to ensure more elderly patients can be kept out of hospital and treated at home.
Prime minister Theresa May has earmarked the funding to bolster NHS services in the provision of home healthcare. It will see the creation of new rapid response teams that will be available to meet the needs of elderly patients 24/7.
Made up of GPs, nurses, pharmacists and physiotherapists, these teams will aim to ensure those in need of community-based support can be helped to avoid unnecessary hospital stays.
Ms May stated: "Too often, people end up in hospital not because it's the best place to meet their needs, but because the support that would allow them to be treated or recover in their own home just isn't available.
"Many of us might assume that hospital is the safest place to be - but in reality, many patients would be much better off being cared for in the community."
She concluded that more patients should be given a "genuine and high-quality alternative to hospital", with this new approach meaning individuals will be able to leave hospitals quicker, or avoid being admitted in the first place.
According to the government's own data, as many as one-third of patients stay in hospitals longer than they are medically required to due to the simple fact that the infrastructure is not currently in place to support them in their own home.
This move is therefore designed to free up hospital resources and to provide a better standard of care to those who do not necessarily require a hospital stay. In this way, the investment is expected to improve patients' health, reduce costs for the NHS, ease pressure on staff, free up much-needed beds and help to reduce treatment waiting times.
Responding to the announcement, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, of the Royal College of GPs, told the Daily Mail that the government's investment highlights the premise that a strong community-based healthcare system is needed to ensure the long-term stability of the NHS.
"Any investment in patient care in the community is welcome and it's essential that general practice, specifically, is at the heart of these plans and a key recipient of this new funding," she stated.
The investment plan will now see a phased introduction, with the additional spending forming part of the government's new NHS Long Term Plan. It means a real-terms increase in NHS spending in this area of £3.5 billion a year by 2023/4.
Echoing the prime minister's stance, health secretary Matt Hancock concluded: "Every patient deserves to receive care tailored to their needs. Yet too often our hospitals become the only place to turn for older people, often to the detriment of their health - but no longer."