More MS news articles for February 2001

Doctors condemn 'tax on the sick'

Tuesday February 6, 08:41 AM

Doctors at the British Medical Association are seeking changes to the provisions for long term care set out in the Health and Social Care Bill to avoid what they say is tantamount to a tax on being sick.

The BMA believes the NHS should remain responsible for funding long-term health care - including both medical and nursing care - wherever this is provided. And it says the Government's definition of nursing care is too limited.

Dr Andrew Dearden, chairman of the BMA's Community Care Committee, said:

"We are pressing politicians to make changes to the Bill so that free care includes personal care as well as nursing care. If someone is unable to wash themselves, use the bathroom or get dressed on their own because of their medical condition, we believe help with these basic things should be free of charge. If individuals have to pay for this increased level of personal care it is akin to a tax on being sick. This goes against the ethos of the NHS."

Where care is deemed to be neither predominantly social nor health care, the BMA has suggested that pilot studies for the use of shared budgets should be established and evaluated before applying any best practice on a national basis.

The Scottish Parliament and Executive has already agreed to provide personal care and nursing care elements free of charge, following recommendations from a Royal commission. But health minister John Hutton has reportedly said that England and Wales would not be following Scotland's example of providing free personal care for older people.

"The BMA wants to see an equitable application of the NHS," said Dr Dearden. "It cannot be right that older people in England and Wales have to pay for the care they need when those in Scotland will receive it without charge. All NHS patients should have the benefit of free personal care if they need it."