30/03/2006

Call for end to means testing for elderly care

Elderly people should be guaranteed a minimum level of state-funded social care and the current means-testing system should be scrapped, according to a new report.

The report, by government adviser Sir Derek Wanless and commissioned by the King's Fund, suggested a partnership model whereby individuals would pay personal contributions which would be matched by the state. A minimum care package would be provided for free, and people would have the option to pay for extra services.

Sir Derek said that the proposals would prevent many people from having to sell their home to pay for care in nursing homes.

The report found that the number of elderly people with high social care needs would increase by more than half by 2026 and also said that investment in current service levels would need to be substantially increased.

Dr Helena McKeown, Chairman of the BMA's Community Care Committee welcomed the report. She said: "For too long older people have had to face a postcode lottery for services. All older people should have equal access to the care they need and help to lead independent lives wherever possible.

"It is vital that services for older people are better integrated across social and health care, if we are to reduce both admissions to hospital and the distressing and costly delays many people face in being discharged back to their homes.

"Many older people are already not getting the care they need because of the means-testing system and the King's Fund review shows there are serious gaps in access to social care services. With the number of over-65s set to rise, politicians of all parties must take heed of this report's worrying findings.

"If the government is to meet its own commitment to enabling older people to lead as independent lives as possible and make unfair access to health and social care a thing of the past, it must take action now on investment and reform."

(KMcA/SP)

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