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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 June 2007, 09:51 GMT 10:51 UK
National rules for funding care
Elderly person
Funding decisions vary around the country
Thousands of people in England are likely to receive more help towards their care costs, a minister has said.

Ivan Lewis, the care services minister, was unveiling a national framework for funding NHS continuing healthcare.

The aim is to standardise decisions on who is eligible for continuing care, making the process faster, fairer and more simple to understand.

However, campaigners said the measures did not go far enough, and many people could still be unfairly treated.

They also stressed it would not cover social or personal care, which includes help with washing, feeding and dressing.

It does not go far enough to convince us that it will achieve the basic changes that are so badly needed
Jean Gould
Help the Aged

Continuing nursing care - a package of nursing and social care - is needed mostly by elderly people to help them cope with illness, or an on-going medical condition.

At present, decisions on who is eligible vary around the country, often leading to people with identical needs being treated differently.

The new guidance - which will affect thousands of people living in care homes, and in their own homes - is an attempt to end this "postcode lottery" by introducing nationwide rules.

The charity Age Concern estimates 100,000 people should qualify for funded continuing care, but at present around 31,000 actually do. Under the new rules an extra 5,000 to 10,000 people should qualify.

Difficult decisions

Mr Lewis, said: "We understand that families do have to make difficult and emotional decisions when someone has to go into residential care and this can be made worse by having to consider how this will be funded."

Under the new system, the banded charging system for the amount a primary care trust must pay to a home for providing nursing care will be scrapped
The three bands - 40, 87 and 139 - will be replaced by a single 101 flat rate charge

He said the new system would not solve all the problems immediately, but would lead to real improvements over time.

He said: "It will lead to fair and consistent access to NHS funding across England, irrespective of location, diagnosis or personal circumstances.

"This will make the system faster and more convenient for both patients and professionals.

"In particular, it will be of help to those who previously have been excluded, such as younger adults with long term neurological conditions and older people with dementia or other mental health needs."

Jean Gould, of the charity Help the Aged, said: "This is a helpful step towards resolving the horrific unfairness and inconsistencies which have so far blighted the lives of many older people and their families trying to grapple their way through a complex funding system.

"However, it does not go far enough to convince us that it will achieve the basic changes that are so badly needed.

"There is still no clarity about where social services responsibilities end and the NHS begins, leaving many potential gaps where no one picks up responsibility."

Complete overhaul

Neil Hunt, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society, said the new guidance was an improvement on the current system, which he called a "public scandal" which discriminated against thousands of people with Alzheimer's disease.

But he added: "Despite this, there is no escaping that the current care system is broken and needs a complete overhaul.

"Thousands of families will still be left struggling with astronomical care bills. We need a national debate on who pays for care."

Conservative health spokesman Stephen O'Brien said: "It has taken Labour years to produce these new guidelines, yet they will do nothing to stop the scandal of elderly people having to sell their homes to fund their care."

The guidance comes into operation in October, and is expected to cost 220million in its first year.

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