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Wednesday, September 16, 1998 Published at 11:43 GMT 12:43 UK


Elderly care 'needs radical overhaul'

Elderly people should not pay for health and social care, says Age Concern

Radio 5Live on Age Concern's report
Britain's growing elderly population need a cheaper, more equal and more open system of long-term care, according to charity Age Concern.

In its final submission to the Royal Commission on Long Term Care, Age Concern calls for a radical overhaul of the existing system, including:

  • new locally based community care authorities to administer long-term care
  • a state-funded scheme which allows the young to save for possible future care costs
  • free health and social services care for all elderly people.

Sally Greengross, Age Concern England's director general, said: "If the services of the future are to support the growing older population, the Royal Commission must look closely at the experience of the past and resist the temptation to patch up and paper over the cracks in the current system."

[ image: Sally Greengross: long-term care needs a total overhaul]
Sally Greengross: long-term care needs a total overhaul
Although the Royal Commission, set up last December, is supposed to look at funding for long-term care, Age Concern says it should first define what the term covers.

It wants a new national definition of long-term care which clearly distinguishes between the cost of the nursing element of care homes and other 'hotel' costs, such as food, accommodation and cleaning.

This would ensure elderly people did not have to fund health costs and would make for smaller nursing home bills.

The charity says many elderly people in nursing homes now pay for health care which should be free on the NHS.

Age Concern also wants a national system for subsidising hotel charges.

Community care authorities

The charity is also proposing that new locally based community care authorities be set up.

[ image: Some old people fall between the health and social services nets]
Some old people fall between the health and social services nets
Currently, long-term care costs are split between health and social services departments.

Age Concern says this can be confusing for elderly people and can cause funding battles between departments, leading to delays in people getting the care they need.

For example, bathing services for the elderly can be defined as either a medical or a social need.

The government is due to set out its recipe for reducing the so-called "Berlin Wall" between health and social services on Wednesday.

National guidelines

Age Concern is also proposing national guidelines on charges for long-term care.

"There is quite a lot of disparity across the country. What you get access to and whether you pay for it depends on where you live," said a spokeswoman.

"Elderly people need to know what is available, what they can expect, what kind of financial support they can have and how much they will have to contribute," she added.

Age Concern is also calling for:

  • ring-fenced funding for long-term care
  • a system which takes into account every aspect of a person's ability to pay for long-term care
  • an annual independent review of care standards and costs
  • a review of benefits for the elderly, particularly those who are disabled
  • government to meet any shortfall between local and health authorities' resources and elderly people's needs.

Age Concern gives oral evidence to the Royal Commission on 24 September.

It has so far submitted nine papers to the commission, which is due to report its findings in December.

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