By politics.co.uk staff

Councils will have an extra £162 million to spend on helping people leave hospital more quickly, Andrew Lansley has announced.

The health secretary said the money had been found from ‘efficiency savings’ and would be available for the current financial year.

It will target social care support for elderly people leaving hospital, as ministers attempt to address the shortage of over 2,500 which are unavailable because of transfers in care.

“Older people often need particular support after a spell in hospital to settle back into their homes, recover their strength and regain their independence,” Mr Lansley said.

“This money will enable the NHS and social care to work better together for the benefit of patients.

“This additional investment for health and care services is the result of determination to deliver savings, maintain quality and invest in services that matter to patients and their families and carers during the critical winter season.”

The NHS is braced for a surge of flu cases in the new year and will come as a relief to many primary care trusts, who will distribute the extra money to councils.

Ministers expect the money will be spent on extra short-term residential care places, more capacity for home care support and investment in crisis response teams.

The money comes in addition to the £70 million already being spent this year on reablement services.