<p>Markets play a central role in the social care system, a role that was entrenched by the 1990 NHS and Community Care Act. The position of local authorities as a major purchaser of independent residential care and sponsor for clients gives them both the scope and obligation to manage and shape these social care markets. In this process authorities have been working to some extent in the dark. What type of contracts seem to generate the desired results? What effect are their actions having on local markets and how does this translate through to the type of care people receive and the cost of that care? A survey of admissions of elderly people to residential and nursing home care provides an opportunity to address some of these issues from the perspective of publicly funded placements.\ud \u
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