BMA seeks review of community care

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THE BRITISH Medical Association yesterday called for an urgent review of community care after a survey of doctors showed that 40 per cent believe services have worsened since the new arrangements took effect in April.

Emergency assessments for care are taking more than a week while hospital beds are blocked as doctors wait three to four weeks for social workers to assess the care people need under the new arrangements, Dr Andrew Vallance- Owen, a BMA under-secretary, said yesterday.

He said the changes had produced 'more bureaucracy and more paperwork but services to patients have not improved'.

The association's survey of 2,000 doctors produced 553 replies, with 85 per cent of the GPs, geriatricians, psychiatrists and public health doctors who responded saying there had been no improvement in services since April.

Forty per cent said services had deteriorated. 'Given that community care was heralded as a major improvement for patients, it is of particular concern that the majority of doctors are reporting no change in services or an actual deterioration,' Dr Alistair Riddell, chairman of the BMA's community care committee, said.

'Bed-blocking, inadequate day care and residential provision, and a failure of basic information, consultation and training for doctors are among the key issues which must be addressed.'

The BMA's perception of the first six months of community care, in which care managers purchase care for individuals with the aim of allowing more people to live independently at home, chimes with that of voluntary organisations such as Age Concern. It contrasts, however, with the view of social services directors who recently reported no significant delays.