During the past thirty years a high proportion of all long stay hospital beds have been closed. The responsibility for those who would have occupied those beds previously has to a large extent been transferred from health to social services departments, or to family, voluntary and private care. The overall effect has been to prioritize acute medical care, and to expose the public provision and funding of long term residential care, whether medical or social, to the direct determination of political and economic forces. These policy changes have been introduced under the banner of community care, but are dependent on complex concepts which are morally contentious and often obscure. The purpose of this paper is to analyse these processes as a prerequisite to devising better policies in future.
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