Free nursing care funding shift delay

Full responsibility for funding free nursing
care will not be transferred to the NHS until April 2003, the
government announced this week, after coming under increasing
pressure to defer the changes.

In July 2000, the government accepted the
Royal Commission on Long Term Care’s recommendation to remove the
anomaly of people paying for nursing care in nursing homes that is
provided free in other settings.

Consultation guidance on implementing free
nursing care published in July 2001 proposed that the funding of
local authority-funded residents’ registered nursing care would be
transferred to the NHS from April 2002.

But concerns raised by the Association of
Directors of Social Services, the Local Government Association, and
the NHS Confederation about the proposed timescale for implementing
the changes and assessing all residents have forced the government
to reconsider.

Health minister Jacqui Smith said: “The
deferral in the transferral of funds from local authorities will
allow more time for the NHS and councils to work together to ensure
the process is carried out efficiently and to the benefit of older
people receiving nursing care.”

Smith stressed that the change was to enable
NHS, social services and care home staff to establish effective
working partnerships, and would not affect the government’s
commitment to make nursing care free for all from next month.

The deferral means that seven out of 10 people
already receiving care from a registered nurse paid for by local
councils, or through preserved rights to higher rates of income
support, will receive free nursing between April 2002 and April
2003 funded by local authorities rather than by the NHS.

The estimated 35,000 self-funding nursing home
residents in England will be assigned to an appropriate band of
nursing, and health authorities will be allocated money based on
the number of self-funders in their area.

People going into nursing homes after 1
October 2001 will be assessed using the single assessment process,
which is intended to eliminate duplication and lack of
compatibility between existing health and social care assessment
procedures. Single assessment will then be implemented fully from
April 2002 and will be central to the determination of individuals’
registered nursing needs.

LGA chairperson Sir Jeremy Beecham welcomed
the government’s agreement that “an additional 12 months until full
implementation” would enable robust arrangements to be put in place
for joint working between councils and the NHS.

Association of Director of Social Services
president Moira Gibb added: “This will allow the construction of
financial mechanisms to ensure the smooth transition that will
reassure the elderly people we provide care for.”

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