Care cuts 'will see hospital beds fill up'

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Hospital beds will be filled by the elderly and the vulnerable because of cuts to local government care, a senior health service figure warned today.

Nigel Edwards, the head of the NHS Confederation, said the pressure on beds could mean that hospitals would be unable to admit patients "who badly need care".



While health spending was ring-fenced in the Chancellor George Osborne's spending review, local authorities were among the big losers, with councils in England facing a 27 per cent cut in central government funding over the next four years.



In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, Mr Edwards said the result could be that elderly patients would have to stay on in hospital for longer as there will be no after-care available in the community.



"Less support from council services will quickly lead to increased pressure on emergency services and hospitals," he said.



"Hospital beds will be blocked for those who badly need care because the support services the elderly require after discharge will not be available."



He said it was now essential to ensure that council care services and NHS facilities were properly co-ordinated.



"When it comes to the care of the most vulnerable in our society, it really is essential that the NHS and local authorities are in it together," he said.



Meanwhile Treasury Chief Secretary Danny Alexander acknowledged that many people would face real hardship as a result of the spending cuts.



"For a lot of people it's going to be very difficult indeed," he told The Daily Telegraph.



A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "We understand that social care can impact on NHS demands. That's why we are strengthening programmes like reablement and the 30 day readmission tariff, which will integrate hospital care with care in the community.



"We have allocated an additional £2 billion by 2014/15 - this extra boost alongside an ambitious programme of efficiency will ensure that there is enough funding available both to protect people's access to services and deliver new approaches to improve quality and outcomes.



"We expect local health and social care professionals will work together to ensure that the funding is spent on joint health and social care priorities and improve outcomes for everyone."

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