Page last updated at 10:03 GMT, Friday, 11 April 2008 11:03 UK

Care cost changes 'not working'

Elderly people
New guidelines aim to create a level playing field in care

Government attempts to end the postcode lottery in who gets continuing NHS healthcare in England are having little impact, a charity has claimed.

Age Concern said figures for the three months after new guidelines came in showed the differences remain huge.

Tens of thousands of older people with serious health problems were paying for care that should be free, it added.

The government said the guidelines needed time to take effect and that there would be a review in the autumn.

'Unfair funding'

Continuing healthcare is given to people who have long-term health needs but do not need to be in hospital - most live in nursing homes.

However, a person's eligibility for NHS funding is determined by the local primary care trust, and the way that funding is allocated has long been criticised as unfair.

Clearly this is a new system and it needs to bed in
David Stout, NHS Confederation

Age Concern said an analysis of Department of Health statistics showed there were still "real disparities".

It warned tens of thousands of older people with chronic health conditions were paying for care that should be free.

Gordon Lishman, director general of the charity, said: "Frail older people should not be denied the care they are entitled to because of where they happen to live.

"PCTs need to iron out these inconsistencies or face more claims for compensation."

'Difficult decisions'

Age Concern highlighted Gloucestershire Primary Care Trust (PCT) as the worst for long-term care funding in England.

But a spokesman for the trust said the number of people who had received funding for long term care had increased since the rules had changed.

It said it was funding 31.19 care packages per 50,000 population compared to the 5.65 claimed by Age Concern.

East Riding of Yorkshire PCT, also identified as one of the worst performers, again challenged the accusation.

It said it had significantly increased the number of continuing care packages it funded over the last year.

Barking and Dagenham and Hartlepool PCTs were identified as the highest funders.

David Stout, of the NHS Confederation's Primary Care Trust Network which represents managers, challenged Age Concern's figures.

He added: "The guidance that was introduced last year is aimed at ensuring there are no disparities.

"But clearly this is a new system and it needs to bed in."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "These are very difficult decisions that people make at a local level."

But Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said: "Receiving continuing care is a core need, not an optional luxury for those who are able to raid life long savings. "The new guidelines were meant to give older people the continuing care they are entitled to. This has clearly not been happening."

National rules for funding care
26 Jun 07 |  Health

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