The government has made a move to simplify the system by setting out guidelines for eligibility to the continuing care funds provided by the NHS in England .
People requiring nursing support for health reasons in the community are entitled to it free of costs. Campaigners claim that many patients are being denied continuing care due to confusion over eligibility criteria.
Traditionally, extended nursing care for people with long-term illnesses was classified as social care and hence, was, means-tested. This resulted in many patients selling their homes to fund their healthcare.
But a legal challenge pressurized the government to change the system for nursing care, five years ago, although the amendment does not extend to personal care, despite pressure from campaigners.
NHS must now take into account four key indicators - nature, complexity, intensity and unpredictability of need, to decide the eligibility of the patient. The consultation also recommends that eligible patients be given £97 a week towards their care.
Patients are now entitled to the support of the NHS free of costs, if their need is caused by a health reason. About 21,000 of them are currently benefited. Care Services Minister Ivan Lewis noted that the proposals would reduce the "administrative hoops" patients have to jump through.
But the Health Service Ombudsman, Ann Abraham has warned that there still existed confusion over the eligibility, which meant that regional variations existed in receiving the funding from local NHS organizations.
Gordon Lishman, director general of Age Concern, said "We welcome the proposals to simplify the system from three bands to one, however the rate set - £97 - is simply not high enough to cover all the costs of nursing care in care homes. Older people and their families will be forced to cover this shortfall to pay for their own nursing care."
Pauline Ford, adviser for older people, the Royal College of Nursing, also was of a similar opinion. She said that she was dismayed at the £97 funding made available by the NHS."This would buy just seven-and-a-half hours of registered nursing per week and in no way reflects the real costs of nursing people with long-term, complex health needs."