Cost of Care Is Crippling Our Old People; ELDERLY RAID SAVINGS TO PAY FOR NURSING

The Mirror (London, England), July 28, 2000 | Go to article overview

Cost of Care Is Crippling Our Old People; ELDERLY RAID SAVINGS TO PAY FOR NURSING


TENS of thousands of elderly people across Scotland face the heartache of raiding their life-savings to pay for basic care.

Despite paying tax throughout their working lives, sick and disabled pensioners are forced to dip into their meagre savings.

In doing so, they use up hard-earned funds they had planned to leave for their children and grandchildren.

Yesterday the UK Government announced it would pay for nursing care in homes but not personal care.

Scottish Health Minister Susan Deacon came under immediate pressure not to follow suit.

Pensioners' groups said the provision of care for Scotland's elderly would cost less than last year's NHS underspend.

And the Executive were urged to defy Westminster and give the elderly some dignity in their twilight years.

SCOTLAND'S health minister is facing mounting pressure to end the scandal of old people raiding their life-savings to pay for care.

Politicians and campaigners for the elderly last night urged Susan Deacon to use her powers to stop the persecution of pensioners.

They want the Scottish Executive to pay for nursing homes for every one of the country's old people - at a cost of pounds 110million a year.

The cost could have been covered last year when there was a pounds 134 million underspend in the department.

Pensioners are currently being forced to spend their hard-earned savings and even sell their houses to pay nursing home fees.

Health ministers south of the border yesterday announced they would pay for nursing care in homes - but not personal care which includes the feeding, bathing and dressing of the elderly.

The move provoked fury from opposition politicians and Scottish charities who fear Deacon will be forced to toe the Tony Blair line.

Age Concern spokesman David Brownlee said: "This is a chance for Susan Deacon to prove that she is listening to the elderly people of Scotland.

"The Scottish Executive must use the powers provided by devolution and pay for all care for the elderly."

Jan Killeen, policy director for Alzheimer Scotland, said: "The reforms announced for England and Wales provide a foretaste of what Scotland can expect.

"Dementia is a severely debilitating, progressive illness which can last for many years and for which there is no cure.

"Care is the main form of 'treatment'.

"That means help with eating, bathing and dressing which we understand is to be excluded from the definition of nursing care."

SUSAN Deacon yesterday said she will announce the health plans for Scotland in September.

The minister said Scotland's reforms could differ from the rest of the UK - "if that is the right thing to do".

But she refused to pledge allegiance to the country's pensioners and said: "We have been very clear about the importance we assign to this issue and services to the elderly in general.

"We have spent a great deal of time meeting with Age Concern and other representatives in Scotland over the last year to look at how we can move forward.

"There are aspects of this issue that are reserved to Westminster, like social security."

"We have always said that where it is right and proper for us to act within our powers and reflect Scottish needs in a different way from other parts of the UK, we will do that."

But rival politicians are not confident of Deacon's promise.

Tory health spokeswoman Mary Scanlon said: "Susan Deacon has a chance to show that she cares by adopting the responsibility of payments for personal care."

Scottish Tory leader David McLetchie described yesterday's launch of the English and Welsh NHS plan as "an empty shell which fails the elderly."

He said: "Perhaps the greatest worry for many elderly people is the possibility that they may need long-term care at home or in a nursing home.

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