Nursing care cost 'will be burden on councils'

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The Independent Online
PLANS by the Government to end the right of elderly patients to receive long-term nursing care funded by the NHS will impose extra costs on overstretched local councils, directors of social services fear.

In a letter to Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, the Association of Directors of Social Services attacks draft guidance issued to health authorities last Friday which will make social services departments responsible for most pensioners who need nursing care after leaving hospital.

Under the existing system, the NHS pays for such continuing care for everyone, regardless of their means. Under the new system, social services would have to assess the type of care needed, whether in a private nursing home or in their own home.

People with savings or assets of more than pounds 3,000 will have to contribute towards the costs and the social services will also have to contribute. Those with savings of more than pounds 8,000 must pay the full cost. For people with less than pounds 3,000, the social services department will have to pay the full costs. The new guidelines say the NHS should remain responsible for the care of elderly patients with 'complex or multiple health care needs'. But the 'significant majority' of those requiring continuing nursing care will have to depend on means-tested social services.

However, social services directors fear there will be confusion and disputes between health and social services about whether or not a patient needs health or social care.

Denise Platt, president of the association, said: 'We have been pushing for clarification of the role of the NHS in continuing care, if only to expose the fact that costs were being passed on to social services. No two doctors agree on when a patient is ready for continuing care . . Doctors also vary in their opinion of what constitutes continuing care. We are already seeing inappropriate discharges.'