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Wednesday, 6 February, 2002, 17:23 GMT
Free personal care plan gets go-ahead
Elderly woman with cup
Free personal care will be available in July
The Scottish Parliament has unanimously voted in favour of plans to provide free personal care for the elderly.

MSPs backed the Community Care and Health (Scotland) Bill, which will now go ahead for royal assent and will be implemented in July.

The changes mean that all personal care charges for people cared for in their own homes will be abolished and that everyone needing nursing care will receive it free of charge.

Malcolm Chisholm
Malcolm Chisholm: "Care is finally free"
Former first minister, Henry McLeish, who was speaking in parliament for the first time since his resignation, said it was proof that devolution was working.

The vote was widely welcomed, with Help the Aged describing it as the end of a "long and hard fought campaign" to remove the financial burden on pensioners in Scotland.

It is estimated that free personal care will cost the Scottish Executive 125m in its first year.

Health Minister, Malcolm Chisholm, told MSPs: "We will ensure that nursing care is finally free for all who need it, regardless of the context - free at home, free in hospital and for the first time, free in nursing homes."

Mr Chisholm said that problems would still arise after the bill is passed, but said the Scottish Executive was committed to seeing it completely enacted.

Information to carers

Opposition MSPs made final efforts to change some of the bill's provisions.

Scottish National Party MSP Shona Robison moved an amendment intended at placing health service bodies under the same duty as local councils for identifying carers in their area.

Her amendment called for health service bodies to be put under an obligation to provide information to carers, including information about their right to an assessment of their needs.

Liz Duncan
Liz Duncan: "We can finally celebrate"
Ms Robison's amendment was defeated but a subsequent amendment by Labour backbencher Janis Hughes, which echoed some of her key points, was accepted.

Deputy Health Minister Mary Mulligan said that while the executive supported the sentiment of Ms Hughes' amendment, she said it was "flawed" and would not work in practice.

Mr McLeish supported the bill and said: "Politics can be a tough business - but at the end of the day the satisfaction is that devolution is making a difference.

Reacting to the passing of the bill, Liz Duncan, Scottish executive of Help the Aged said: "We can finally celebrate victory in the campaign for free personal care and nursing care."

She praised the Scottish Parliament for listening to Scotland's older people.

See also:

14 Jan 02 | Scotland
Free elderly care plan delayed
29 Jan 01 | Scotland
McLeish tackles care questions
29 Sep 00 | Scotland
Aiming to break drug habit
25 Jan 01 | Scotland
Executive in OAP care concession
15 Jan 02 | Scotland
Date named for elderly care plan
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