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GPs take up slack for social care cuts

Exclusive Dramatic cuts to social care budgets are placing practices under mounting pressure, with GPs forced to send patients to hospital because there is nowhere in the community for them to go, a Pulse investigation reveals.

Council-funded physiotherapy, speech and language therapy, elderly care and mental health services are among the victims of an average 4.7% cut in council social care budgets across England, with practices increasingly left to pick up the slack for axed services.

Key services for vulnerable patients – including legal aid, welfare services and public health campaigns – are also being hit.

This month saw Manchester City Council become the latest authority to announce millions of pounds of social care cuts, with services for the elderly, disabled, mentally ill and victims of domestic violence hit by a fresh round of cuts totalling £8.6m.

Dr Hamish Meldrum, BMA chair and a GP in Bridlington, East Yorkshire, told Pulse cuts to services like home help and support for carers of vulnerable patients were already hitting GPs.

‘The squeeze on social care is adding pressure on the health system,' he said.

‘Any GP you speak to will say there are times when patients have had to be admitted to hospital because there aren't the resources in the community to look after them, rather than it necessarily being due to the acuteness of their medical condition.'

The warning from Dr Meldrum, who also said cuts to public health campaigns and recreational activities would have a long-term impact on the NHS, came as GPs on the front line said their patients were being hit by the cost-cutting drive.

Dr Elizabeth Goodburn, a GP in Camden, north London, said her practice, based in a health centre alongside employment, drug and alcohol and citizens' advice services, was ‘suffering' from council cuts.

She told an NHS Future Forum listening event: ‘The Citizens Advice Bureau has had its funding cut, the alcohol service – which is hugely important – has been reduced and our drug service is under pressure.'

Dr Katy Gardner, a GP in Liverpool, said: ‘Our councillors are struggling against cuts to Sure Start and pressure on services like citizens' advice. I agree with integrating public health with local authorities, but our CCG is going to be doing it in a drastically reduced context.'

A Dorset GP, who asked not to be named, said: ‘It has become very hard to get elderly patients equipment to be cared for at home.'

‘There are fewer and fewer community services.'


Where cuts are being made

1. Gateshead Council to limit elderly care to ‘critical only' services to save an estimated £10m

2. Leeds Mental health crisis centre closed earlier this year, as council faced £90m spending cuts. GPs report nursing home closures amid social care squeeze

3 Manchester £8.6m of cuts for services for the elderly, disabled and mentally ill patients

4. Nottinghamshire Citizens Advice Bureau services report 60% cut in council funding

5. South London Connexions service offering employment support decommissioned across six boroughs, with one also axing speech and language therapy, physiotherapy and occupational therapist posts

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