This article was published in SPAG's Newsletter for December 2004.
Five years ago, the Royal Commission on Long
Term Care recommended that older people in need of personal care, whether living in their own home or in a residential care home, should receive it free of charge and without a means test, just as nursing care is provided free under the NHS. They defined personal care as care, other than nursing or medical, that involves touching a person's body.
The proposal was widely welcomed, and it was adopted in Scotland - but the Government decided it couldn't be afforded in England and Wales. The latest estimate is that, for England alone, it would cost around £1.5 billion a year - a lot of money, but less than the expected increase in the National Insurance Fund's surplus for 2004-05. As so often, it's not a question of what can be afforded but of what the Government chooses to spend our money on.
The Royal Commission, having delivered its report, was disbanded, but some of its members have continued to campaign for free personal care, and the Right to Care Campaign was formed, with the support of a wide range of bodies including UNISON, Carers UK, the Patients' Association, the Royal College of Nursing and the National Pensioners Convention. In July 2004 the Campaign launched a public consultation to collect people's personal experiences of long term care.
Anyone who, whether as a user or a carer, has had such experience in the past 3 years is asked to complete a short questionnaire. The information will be used to build up a picture of how the present system, with its messy distinction between personal and nursing care, is working - or not working!
If you would like to take part in the survey, ask for a copy of the questionnaire at the Pensioners Centre.
Footnote: SPAG, of course, doesn't favour any political party but we note that provision of free personal care is the official policy of the Liberal Democrats. We were also interested to hear about an Early Day Motion tabled in the House of Commons by a Labour MP, Lynne Jones, calling for free personal care for people suffering from Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. By 26th October it had been signed by 111 MPs: 70 Labour, 23 Liberal Democrats, 9 Conservatives and 9 others.