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NHS nursing care 'to become a thing of the past'

21st July 2006

Free long term nursing care for the elderly will become a thing of the past, according to a test case lawyer.

Eligibility for free care will continue to be confusing, Nicola Mackintosh told the BBC Panorama programme, despite recent proposals published by the government, which were intended to clarify exactly that.

Ms Mackintosh represented patient Pauline Coughlan in 1999, in The Coughlan Test, a landmark case to keep NHS care free.

The outcome of this case was to rule that funding is the responsibility of the NHS if the nursing is primarily needed for health care purposes.

A consultation by the Department of Health recently laid out four key indicators for who should receive funding: nature, complexity, intensity and unpredictability of need.

"This is a missed opportunity," said Ms Mackintosh about the new proposals. "It would be much better if that money which was spent on resolving disputes, doing assessments, was actually spent on health care."

However, health minister Ivan Lewis said that relying on the government to fund long-term care was neither "affordable nor realistic".

"I would contest honestly that no government could suggest that social care could be offered free to everybody," he argued.