Elderly Suffer as Councils Struggle to pick up NHS Shortfall

Elderly and vulnerable people needing care at home are suffering from cuts in NHS spending as councils struggle to take up the slack, a study has revealed. As local authorities pick up the shortfall, they are being forced to increase council tax or cut services. A study, commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA), found nearly seven out of 10 local authorities in areas with an NHS deficit have been affected.

NHS cost-cutting measures such as withdrawing from jointly funded projects and referring patients to other carers has placed huge pressure on councils. In turn, local authorities are increasing the time it takes to carry out social care assessments, withdrawing services from those with low level needs and using up budget reserves.

Paul Masterman, from Shropshire County Council, said dental and chiropody services in the home were just some of the services being affected. In Wiltshire, the NHS has pulled out of a £5million jointly funded project.

Councillor David Rogers, social care spokesman for the LGA, said the NHS and councils must work together to prevent services being affected. “Health and social care are two sides of the same coin,” he said. “It is impossible not to cut services on one side without hurting the other.

“Local authorities are leading the way in making efficiency savings. But the increasing numbers of people in need of care, and these latest financial pressures, are forcing many to cut services or increase council tax. In some cases they are having to do both.”

The survey questioned 55 of the 78 local authorities in areas where NHS Trusts were suffering from a deficit.

Most council leaders are known to be angry about the NHS’ cost shunting actions. Some have even taken legal action against the health service over the non-payment of bills.

Dr Gill Morgan, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents more than 90 per cent of NHS organisations, said the deficits only affected a small number of trusts.”The vast majority of NHS organisations are delivering excellent patient care within budget,” she said.