Government plans local care charters

BMJ 1994; 309 doi: (Published 13 August 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;309:430
  1. C Court

    Local charters to improve the quality of community care services in individual local authorities throughout England are proposed in a consultation document from the health department. The government has already introduced a national citizen's charter but this latest move aims to allow each local social services authority to set and monitor its own standards.

    The aim of these local characters would be to provide more and better information about available services and to improve the quality of services. The framework proposed by the government covers matters such as an individual's needs and views as well as those of carers, proper complaints procedures, and a commitment to monitoring performance against the local character. It also recommends that people being discharged from hospital should be entitled to a plan for their future care before they are discharged.

    But the BMA fears that such local charters will serve only to encourage patients in general to expect and to demand unreasonable levels of care. A spokesman said: “We are disappointed that the government has not set any national minimum standards but has left it to local authorities and social services. The impact will almost certainly be differing standards of care around the country, which we think is wrong. If an elderly patient is discharged from hospital for instance and the social services cannot cope, the GP will end up dealing with the case.”

    A Framework for Local Community Care Charters in England is available from the Department of Health Store, Health Publications Unit, No 2 Site, Manchester Road, Heywood, Lancashire OL10 2PZ.

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