Tuesday, May 11, 1999 Published at 09:59 GMT 10:59 UK
UK criticised over elderly care
Britain's elderly get "inadequate care", says the report
Long-term care for Britain's elderly is "mean, inequitable and the quality of care is often inadequate", according to a report by the House of Commons Health Committee.
The committee says the status quo is unacceptable and that other European countries, such as Denmark, offer the elderly much better care and see old age in a much more positive light than the British.
It strongly backs many of the proposals of the recent Royal Commission on Long-Term Care, including the recommendation that care of the elderly should be funded through general taxation.
However, it says the issue of funding needs more debate and other options need to be considered.
And it is more explicit about how structural changes can be made to improve the service the elderly currently receive.
It says health and social care need to be more closely integrated and that there is an argument for a separate health and social care organisation, an idea that the government has previously rejected.
Social work directors are against the proposal, fearing it could mean them being taken over by the NHS.
"Social services and the NHS have already undergone a lot of structural changes. Things need to settle down."
But elderly experts argue that existing partnership arrangements are not working and more needs to be done to stop people falling through the care net.
For example, in some areas elderly patients are blocking hospital beds because of delays in finding care home places or support services, provided by social services.
"More needs to be done," said a spokeswoman for Help the Aged.
Healthy, active lives
The Health Committee's report backs the Royal Commission's call for a National Care Commission to monitor trends, set national benchmarks for elderly care and represent consumers' interests.
And it says the government needs to focus more attention on preventing the elderly from becoming ill or disabled by encouraging people to live healthy, active lives.
The committee "fully approves" of the commission's call for a new category of personal care, which includes home help.
It says this will provide "a long overdue clarity about who pays for what".
It wants personal care to be free and funded by general taxation, and living and housing costs to be means-tested.
The committee also calls for more government investment in "smart homes", which are adapted to elderly people's needs and contain up-to-date technology.
And it says Britain has a lot to learn from Denmark where the elderly are care for by multi-skilled teams of support workers in their own homes.
But it recognises that this is costly.
It says: "We believe it would be worthwhile for ministers to look closely at Danish models of care for older people with a view to extracting ideas relevant to our own sustainable progress and development in this area."