Lib Dems reveal health plans

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The Independent Online
LOCAL government should take over the running of the health service, according to a Liberal Democrat White Paper which is expected to become policy at the party's spring conference in March.

Labour is also examining the idea, and Wandsworth, the jewel in the crown of Tory local government, is spending up to pounds 300,000 studying how it could take over the purchasing of health care locally.

The Liberal Democrats' commitment to the idea is contained in a document published last week, A Caring Society, which concludes that the way to improve community care is merging health and social services.

The aim is to deliver coherent health and social care with family health service authorities, district health authorities and social services departments merged into one department in democratically elected local authorities. A regional health and social services authority is also proposed.

Liz Lynne, the party's spokeswoman on health, said: 'This is the only way forward to provide both a seamless service and a democratically accountable one'.

Last week's ombudsman's case in which Leeds Health Authority was condemned for discharging a highly dependent, incontinent, brain-damaged man to a private nursing home for which his wife had to pay, showed the extent to which people were falling through the net between the two services, Ms Lynne said.

The party's document argues that the integration of health and local authorities should await a reorganisation of local government into unitary authorities. But the benefits, it says, would include better co-ordinated care; local authorities considering health implications in housing, education and planning; and health and social services

departments no longer manip ulating individual care packages to avoid financial responsibility.