The elderly and chronically ill are being forced to use their savings to pay for residential care which other people get for free, an influential group of MPs has claimed.
The all-party Commons health select committee says in a report today that arbitrary rules mean there is a "postcode lottery". This means that in some areas the frail and disabled get free beds in care homes, while in others those with identical conditions pay. Nursing homes can charge £350 a week per bed.
Similar inequalities affect the infirm and disabled living at home, the MPs said. Some health authorities would pay for NHS nurses while others refuse - forcing family members to become carers. In its final report before the general election, the Labour-dominated committee accused ministers of failing to tackle the problem.
The system, it said, is still "beset by complexity" and causes "major confusion". People suffering from mental or psychological illnesses are discriminated against because rules are biased in favour of physical ailments.
The committee calls for a single national system for deciding whether people deserve a free bed or home care, instead of allowing each regional health authority to set its own rules.
It has also told ministers they should merge the residential care system with the National Health Service - a move it claims would save millions of pounds a year.
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