NHS costs `being pushed on to councils'

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More than 40 local councils are struggling to pay for community care for elderly and vulnerable groups and 12 have run out of money, according to a survey by the Labour Party published yesterday.

Changes to the National Health Service have led to the care of terminally ill people, in particular, being pushed on to local authorities and in effect privatised, according to the report Passing the Buck - cost shunting from the NHS to local authorities.

As community care funds run out, three in five local authorities are rationing services and nearly half are shoring up the care budget with money intended for other services, the survey showed.

More than half the 80 councils that responded said the NHS was shifting costs on to local councils. Of those, nearly half said they were being forced to look after the terminally ill.David Hinchliffe, Labour's community care spokesman, said: "The Govern m ent must recognise that health authorities and trusts are totally ignoring guidelines on continuing care."

Labour's survey coincided with the publication of a report by the Audit Commission yesterday that said the elderly and the mentally ill face widespread cuts in care provision next year as local authorities struggle to meet the demands of the Care in the Community policy.

Taking Stock: Progress with Community Care; the Audit Commission; £6; HMSO.