Health service managers in Lanarkshire are making contingency plans to cope with a possible influx of elderly people following a threat from care homes to evict thousands of clients.
The threat is the latest measure taken by Scottish Care, an umbrella group for the majority of Scotland's private care homes, which is trying to force local authorities to pay more for places. The group has taken on leading PR agency Media House, and homes in Grampian have already threatened to close their doors to new local authority clients.
At a press conference last week, Scottish Care said it had given notice to North and South Lanarkshire councils warning that their contracts with 47 private homes would be ended in six months' time, unless funding is increased by£50 per patient per week. More than 2,500 elderly people could be affected.
If the threat was carried out, health and social services would be forced to make alternative arrangements for many elderly people at a time when services are getting busier over winter.
Ian Ross, director of strategic planning and development at Lanarkshire Acute Hospitals trust, said: 'We are concerned about the possible impact this could have on the blocking of acute hospital beds.
'We are currently reviewing our winter bed plans and are working closely with our colleagues in the primary care trust, the health board and the social work departments to complete our plan by July. Consideration of the nursing homes position, together with the identification of contingency plans, will form part of the winter bed planning exercise. '
Discussions are taking place with the Scottish Executive, local authorities and Scottish Care.
The group has denied it is using emotional blackmail techniques and has pointed out that the situation is urgent.