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Pensioners are still being denied long-term health care or turned away when they urgently need help because of chro...
Pensioners are still being denied long-term health care or turned away when they urgently need help because of chronic government underfunding, according to Help the Aged, reported The Sunday Telegraph (p13).

A year after the report of the royal commission into long-term care, which attacked the system of assessing eligibility for nursing care, little has been done to alleviate their plight, says the charity. Many elderly people who need nursing care at home are being forcd to sell

their property to pay for residential care, while those granted home care suffer from intolerable delays and humiliating assessments.

The royal commission pointed out that 'the tendency of the system to require impoverishment - and its proof - bfore it will help, leads to despair which, in our judgment, is unacceptable'. However, local authorities, which instructed to target those in greatest need,

have now introduced tighter criteria. In most areas, older people are now considered only if they cannot get out of bed on their own, wash or feed themselves, said a Help the Aged spokeswoman.

She added: 'Carers are being left to cope unaided, people are being denied access to essential equipment, families are being left to pay home care fees which should be paid by the state, people are being told they have to go into residential care irrespective of their

wishes because it's cheaper, or denied the home of their choice'.

In some cases, says the charity, local authorities are flouting the law. 'Everyone has a right in law to an assessment of their needs, but some people arebeing turned down over the telephone. Once a local authority has determined that someone's needs fall within their

eligibility criteria, that authority has a duty to meet those needs. But some of our callers are being told they have to wait until funding is available'.

Since publication of the royal commission report, the government has stalled on any definite response, although it is to set up a national care standards commission in 2002.

But in the meatime, regional reports indicate the care budget is vastly overstretched.

The government has pledged a 5.6% increase in social services from April. Out of a total social services budget of£9.3bn for next year for England, older people's services are expected to account for£5.3bn.

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