Age Concern attacks government’s free nursing care policy as ‘shambles’

Older people’s charity Age Concern has called
for an inquiry by the Health Select Committee into the
implementation of free nursing care.

The charity says that it has always had doubts
about the policy decision to separate nursing care and personal
care, and describes the implementation as an “absolute

Gordon Lishman, Age Concern England’s director
general, said that a new lottery is developing depending on the
home in which people live.

“If you are lucky enough to live in a home
that is making sure it passes the relevant NHS supplement onto you
then you are likely to see the benefits of free nursing care. If
this is not the case then the government may as well not have
introduced the changes.”

From 1 October last year the NHS should have
taken responsibility for the registered nurse element of care in
nursing homes, with residents receiving £35, £70 or
£110 according to their level of need.

Sue Adams, acting chief executive of the
Relatives and Residents Association, said that it was receiving an
increasing number of calls saying that homes are not passing on a
reduction in costs after the NHS has paid them, and in some cases
are actually increasing the fees.

However, the Registered Nursing Home
Association claimed that nursing homes were being singled out as
scapegoats for the underfunding of long-term care for older

Chief executive officer Frank Ursell said that
the government ignored advice for the payments to be made to the
patients themselves and not to the homes.

“If it had accepted that advice, nursing homes
would not have been placed in the invidious position that they are
now in, with accusations that they are pocketing the money. We
would have preferred the patients to receive the money and then to
pay their nursing home whatever fee increases may have been in the
pipeline,” he said.

“As it is, the nursing home has had to do
things the other way round by deducting the fee increase from the
money it receives directly from the health authority.”

Health minister Jacqui Smith said that the
extra funding “must benefit” the people for whom it was intended.
“I am sure most nursing homes will ensure that this happens in a
transparent way. However, where there is doubt I will be writing to
them to seek clarification.”

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