October 1, 2003
Multiple Sclerosis Society
Members of the Royal Commission on Long Term Care for the Elderly have criticised the Government for refusing to accept its recommendation of free personal care for those who are no longer fit to look after themselves.
They have challenged it to explain why a cancer patient gets comprehensive NHS care while people with Alzheimer's disease requiring intensive personal care are generally left to fend for themselves. "It is ethically impossible to justify this distinction. Payment of care costs should depend on need, not diagnosis," they said.
The nine members, led by chairman Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, congratulated the Scottish executive for accepting their 1999 proposal but added, "The situation in England, Northern Ireland, and Wales, where the state supports nursing, but not personal care (except on a tightly means-tested basis) is unstable and, if not dealt with in the near future, will implode."
They said there were huge ethical, conceptual and practical difficulties in distinguishing the nursing from the personal care of ill and disabled older people. "Making entitlement to state support dependent on the type of carer rather than the nature of the care needed is essentially a producer-driven approach which puts providers before patients and their needs."
The commissioners said their proposal would cost £1.1bn a year.
This was affordable, given the many billions recently allocated to the NHS, and made good economic sense.
The Department of Health said, "Seven out of 10 older people already
get some or all of their personal care costs paid for by the state. The
government believes it is fairer to spend the £1bn cost of providing
free personal care by improving services for older people who need them,
enabling them to be more independent and to delay, or even avoid, the need
to enter residential or nursing home care."
Copyright © 2003, Multiple Sclerosis Society