Between 5,000 and 10,000 more people will receive fully-funded long-term care, under the government’s new national framework for continuing care, care services minister Ivan Lewis said today.
However, although campaigners have welcomed the framework as an improvement on the current situation, Age Concern said about 70,000 people were being wrongly denied continuing care.
The framework, which comes into force in October, replaces regional strategic health authority with national eligibility criteria, ending the postcode lottery in continuing care, and is also designed to address repeated criticisms of the system made by the health ombudsman and in court judgements.
Lewis said that up to 10,000 more people would receive fully-funded care, many of whom would be people with dementia, whom campaigners claim have been disproportionately excluded in the past. Currently, around 31,000 people receive continuing care.
The extra cost – an estimated £220m a year – will be met from existing SHA and primary care trust budgets in 2007-8, with funding for 2008-11 determined by this year’s comprehensive spending review.
Age Concern director general Gordon Lishman said: “The criteria are undoubtedly an improvement on the current mess. However, without a change in culture within the health service, significant retraining and extra money for the increased numbers receiving continuing care, PCTs will continue to deny eligible people the funding for care they deserve.”
Alzheimer’s Society chief executive Neil Hunt said: “The current system of care funding is a public scandal that discriminates against thousands of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction.”
However, Hunt said that the current long-term care funding system was “broken” and needed a complete overhaul.
Today’s reforms also include a revamp of the registered nursing care contribution, the system by which PCTs fund nursing care for people in care or nursing homes, replacing the existing three needs-based bands, worth £40, £87 and £139 a week, with a single band worth £101 a week.
Lewis said: “There are a lot of concerns about the difficulty of making judgements about the three different bands and a demand for us to streamline the whole process and have one figure.”