Businesses, charities and the Government have joined forces in a pounds 4m project to improve health and social care.

The London Health Partnership, funded by the King's Fund, Department of Health and London First, a private- sector partnership aimed at making London a better place to live, will start by consulting elderly people on how the services work now.

According to Annie Brough, chief executive of Optimum Health Services, a community health trust in Lewisham and Southwark, the biggest problem is putting together a package of care services for elderly people leaving hospital.

Often they will be forced to spend longer in hospital than is medically necessary because the care services cannot be put together quickly enough.

'We feel we can meet the health needs, but often the person is going to need home care. We need to be able to quickly get in somebody to do the shopping and cleaning. And that can take a lot of time to organise.'

A recent report from the King's Fund, a London-based charity which carries out research into health and service policy, called for more community-based health care.

More and more people are suffering from chronic illnesses, such as arthritis and chest diseases, which could be cared for at home, says Diane Plamping, co-director of the project.

'We have set up a health care system to deal with acute illnesses. The changes in technology and people's expectations means hospitals are not always appropriate.'

Pat Gordon, also directing the project, said the money was to fund initiatives which offered a new approach.

'The changes in London's health services are inevitable. We are going to have to find more appropriate ways of doing things, of finding ways of delivering quality services nearer people's homes.