Free personal care in Scotland needs an extra £40m to plug a funding shortfall, the first national review of the system has concluded.
The Independent Funding Review of Free Personal and Nursing Care, submitted to ministers yesterday, said more funding was needed to stabilise the policy in the long-term.
Scotland has been a test-ground for free personal care, which replaced means testing for long-term care packages in 2002. But concern has been raised over its sustainability, with the Liberal Democrats performing a U-turn on their long-standing support for free personal care in January.
However, Lord Sutherland, who led the six-month review said: “Despite some practical difficulties in its formative years, the free personal and nursing care policy remains popular and has worked well in the largest part, delivering better outcomes for Scotland’s older people.”
The review found that some 50,000 people across Scotland are using the system and there has been a country-wide increase in demand for care at home. But there were concerns over inconsistency of provision between different councils, with some rationing free care only to those with higher level or critical care needs. The review body has made a 12-point action plan to improve fairness.
The Scottish government said it was committed to securing FPNC for the long-term, but cabinet secretary for health and well-being Nicola Sturgeon said any additional funding would be linked to resolving “various practical issues” with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.
Older people’s charities welcomed the opportunity to tackle the discrepancies. Ann Ferguson, Age Concern Scotland public affairs officer, said: “There are huge discrepancies on what people get. It depends on the individual who does the assessment, not just on local authority areas. We very much welcome standardised delivery.”