Letter: NHS in crisis

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Jeremy Laurance highlights an issue with which I am all too familiar ("Cash shortage keeps woman in hospital for 10 months", 12 January). There are two fundamental problems - the division between health and social services and chronic underfunding.

Responsibility for older people's health and social care should be vested in a single community care authority to ensure that older people receive services which meet their individual needs.

Age Concern receives many calls where health authorities and local authorities say that they cannot foot the bill for nursing home care. This situation could become more critical in the light of the recent High Court decision which firmly places the sole responsibility of all nursing care on the NHS. The Government needs to issue guidance on this as soon as possible to ensure that the rights of people like Nellie O'Reardon are clear and that they are not left waiting for funding. Older people who need residential care now cannot afford to wait for new policies which might take years to implement.

SALLY GREENGROSS

Director General

Age Concern

London SW16

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