Community Care first highlighted the issue of NHS cost-shunting back in 2005. Then, three primary care trusts in Wiltshire landed the county council with a £3m bill by their overnight decision to pull the financial plug on services for former NHS patients who had moved into the community. The council was justifiably furious, though its protests fell on deaf ears.
Now here we are two years on and a virtually identical row has blown up in Brent, north London. But this time council leaders are considering escalating the dispute by joining with others to take legal action against the PCT.
The prospect of two public sector bodies having to resort to the legal system to resolve this issue is surely madness. As a survey by the Local Government Association last week made clear, the relationship between councils and the NHS is at breaking point. Clearly the government needs to step in.
Whatever gloss chancellor Gordon Brown tries to put on the picture, the fact is there is just not enough money in the social care system. If there is not some recognition of that in this summer’s comprehensive spending review then these local spats will become far worse. And the ultimate losers will be the people who are supposed to be receiving a service.
This article appeared in the 22 March issue under the headline “Epidemic of local spats”