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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 November 2007, 12:07 GMT
Health policy clash 'intentional'
Elderly
Elderly people are means-tested for personal care in England
Policy differences between England and Scotland on health are not due to money but because English ministers disagree with the approach north of the border.

And Health Secretary Alan Johnson once again confirmed England would be not providing free personal care for the elderly as Scotland has done.

He was responding to questions put to him at the Commons' health committee.

Labour MP Charlotte Atkins said English patients felt they were getting "a raw deal" compared to those in Scotland.

I think there are better things you can do with your money to target the people who need it most
Alan Johnson, health secretary in England

Mr Johnson explained that the difference between England and Scotland was not down to funding but to the fact that the government considered that giving free care to the elderly was "the wrong thing to do".

He said with a ageing population - by 2025 the number of over 85s will have risen by two thirds - it was important to prioritise what funds were spent on.

He added he did not think free personal care was an appropriate use of the money.

And it was not the only area of policy with which he disagreed.

Mr Johnson said; "I wouldn't go down the free prescriptions route, as I wouldn't in a previous life go down the free higher education route.

"I think there are better things you can do with your money to target the people who need it most."

Controversial

The differences in policy on personal care in particular has been controversial in recent years.

In England, there is means-testing for care like washing, dressing and cleaning - basically those with assets over 20,500 have to pay for it.

But in Scotland it is provided by the state under a policy developed after devolution.

The situation has prompted criticism from campaigners for the elderly.

And a report last year by Derek Wanless, a former government adviser, urged the Department of Health in England to reconsider current means-testing.

It stopped short of advocating the Scottish system, instead calling for a minimum care package which could be topped up by personal contributions that were matched by the state.

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