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Austerity v Duty of Care

5 November 2010

In a recent test case the Court of Appeal has decided that The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea acted lawfully when it decided to withdraw services to one of its clients to save money.

Following a stroke in 1999, Elaine McDonald, aged 67 had restricted mobility. In 2008, she fell and broke her hip. She was subsequently assessed as needing 24 hour support to assist her using a commode and her local authority provided a sleep-in care worker seven days a week. The authority later decided that they could make a saving of £22,000 a year supplying Miss McDonald with incontinence pads to use at night instead, and she challenged this decision.

To date it has been difficult to know how far the courts will let a public authority reduce their services, but this case gives us some idea. We expect many more disputes like this, as budgets tighten across the whole of health and social care provision.

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