End-of-life free social care proposed
Published on 24 April 2012 12:00 PM
Labour wants to give people with terminal illnesses free social care at home if they want it, the party has revealed.
It wants to scrap means testing in a move that shadow health secretary Andy Burnham believes could improve care for older people and save millions of pounds in the process.
Addressing Unison's health conference in Birmingham, he said: 'Labour will propose removing the means test for end-of-life care - effectively giving everyone who wants it the opportunity to receive free social care in their own home at the end of their lives.
'This is the right thing to do but it could save millions and give older people much better care for the money we spend.'
Mr Burnham went on to say that the reforms will enable more people with terminal illnesses to opt to receive care in the comfort of their own home, preventing scores of people from dying in hospitals when they would rather pass away at home. This, he said, would mark the first steps in integrating the UK's physical, mental and social care system.
He added: 'It should be available quickly, in the place of the person's choosing, without the stress of navigating between the health and social care systems and going through complex means testing. It will mean more services delivered closer to home and out of the hospital.
'It might mean difficult changes to hospitals but, if people can see the benefits, they will be ready to accept them.'
Age UK charity director general Michelle Mitchell welcomed Labour's proposals, saying: 'The majority of people say that they would prefer to die at home, yet around 60% of people die in hospital.
'This is often the result of poor or absent planning, with little support for families and carers to look after people during the last weeks and months of life. Consequently, relatives find themselves battling for funding and services at a traumatic point in their and their loved ones' lives.
'Age UK therefore welcomes the Labour Party's decision to support free social care for people at the end of life.'
But Michelle Mitchell emphasised that the purpose of social care is to support the health, dignity and well being of many more people than just those who are at the end of life, urging politicians from all parties to reform and appropriately fund the wider spectrum of social care provision.
She added: 'Andrew Dilnot's recommendations create a new blueprint for social care, where individuals can affordably contribute towards their care, while being able to depend upon a system of social care that is fit for purpose and able to support the most vulnerable in society.'
Copyright Press Association 2012