Outrage over Fees at Care Homes; Care Home Charges for the Elderly Are Becoming Increasingly Contentious. Health Correspondent Audrey Barton Speaks to Healthcare Experts about the Current System and How It Could Be Changed

The Journal (Newcastle, England), November 3, 2007 | Go to article overview

Outrage over Fees at Care Homes; Care Home Charges for the Elderly Are Becoming Increasingly Contentious. Health Correspondent Audrey Barton Speaks to Healthcare Experts about the Current System and How It Could Be Changed


Byline: Audrey Barton

A LEADING healthcare professor from the region yesterday spoke out against what she described as "outrageous" care home fees for the elderly.

Jan Reed, professor in healthcare for older people at Northumbria University, said the current system - where people who have more than pounds 21,500 in assets must pay for care -forces vulnerable elderly people to chose between themselves and their families.

"If your house goes against your fees for a home it is a difficult choice between doing what is best for you now, or what is best for your family in keeping your home for them to inherit," she said.

"Asking people to pay for care when they have worked so hard for this country is outrageous, for older people and everyone in society, as we all think we are living in a place where no one will look after us when we grow old."

The current means testing system was brought in in 1999 after a major review of care services.

John Bond, professor social gerontology and health services research for Newcastle University said: "At the beginning of the eighties when the Thatcher government came in, it reviewed long term care.

"The majority of the population would be cared for in local authority residential homes or specialist homes for people who were mentally ill with conditions like dementia.

"You paid some money out of your pension for living arrangements such as the rent but not the full economic cost. There was no specific means testing as today."

Nursing care would be provided free by the NHS in long term psychiatric or a geriatric hospitals before they closed to make way for independent nursing homes.

"There was a lot of criticism of that quality of care at the time. There was a quality drive to find better care," said Prof Bond.

The Thatcher government encouraged the independent sector to become the provider and long stay hospitals closed with council-run care homes dwindling.

The Right to Buy scheme also came in under the Conservatives enabling people to buy their homes from the council at reduced prices which would later be taken from them as they reach old age.

Prof Bond explained: "The majority of these people stayed in their homes until their partners died and they were left with it. It is treated as an asset which takes people over the pounds 21,500 threshold so they must contribute to their care."

The current Labour government has said it will review the care system and hinted at a consensus for a new funding settlement between the state, the family and the individual.

Both Prof Reed and Prof Bond are in agreement that the Scottish system of free care would be the most fair and empower care home residents.

"The system in Scotland is fairer as you pay rent out of your income but you are not expected to pay fees for your care," said Prof Bond. …

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