Social services spending on residential and nursing home care has risen dramatically in comparison with spending on community-based services.

The 1998-99 social services expenditure statistics show that gross spending on care for elderly people in independent residential and nursing homes has doubled since 1994-95 and currently stands at£2.19bn.A further£740m was spent on elderly people in local authority-run homes, bringing the total to£2.93bn.

Spending on home care services, including home helps, has increased just 25 per cent since 1994-95, and stood at just over£1bn in England for 1998-99.

Tessa Harding, head of policy at Help the Aged, said that if the government's plans to reduce bed blocking were to be effective, the NHS would have to help social services by putting more spending into community-based services.

'Increasing proportions of money are going to residential and nursing home care rather than developing the alternatives. It means, as we already know, that people are not getting an adequate level of services at home to enable them to stay at home.

'If we are going for the intermediate care option, we have got to have a very serious review of community care spending and much greater input into the whole of domiciliary care to prevent people being admitted to hospital in the first place.'

Overall social services spending in 1998-99 was£11bn, an increase of 9 per cent on the previous year. Threequarters of this was on services for children and older people.