A radical shake-up of the system of long-term care for the elderly was recommended by a Royal Commission yesterday.
So-called "personal care" involving medical treatment and other therapies should be free for all elderly people, with taxpayers footing the bill, the Royal Commission said.
The other "hotel" costs of bed and board in nursing and residential homes should be means tested, the 12-strong Commission panel recommended.
It also laid down proposals aimed at preventing people from having to sell their homes to pay for nursing costs.
Under the recommendations, the value of a house would not be included in means testing for the first three months of residential care.
And the level of savings at which people had to pay all their residential care costs would be raised from pounds 16,000 to pounds 60,000.
The Commission, which has spent 14 months taking evidence from more than 2,000 individuals and organisations, also called for the setting up of a National Care Commission to monitor population trends, look at spending and set benchmarks for quality of care.
The radical proposals, which could cost up to pounds 1.2 billion a year and see the proportion of taxes spent on long-term care rise by 0.4 per cent, were given cautious backing by the Government.
Health Secretary Mr Frank Dobson refused to give an instant response to the Commission's recommendations.
He said the Government would study the proposals carefully and called for an informed debate about the future of long-term care.
Mr Dobson said: "I hope that the Commission's report and the debate it will stimulate will help us find a way of ensuring that people have access to high quality long-term care that is fair to both individuals and the taxpayer.
"We have got to get this right. I hope that it will be founded on a consensus that will stand the test of time - a dependable contract across the generations."
Mr Dobson added: "The Commission's report rightly makes clear this is something on which `there is no obvious answer' and calls for an `informed debate' on what they have recommended. …