Nurses showed that they were furious with the government for its lukewarm response to the Royal Commission on Long-Term Care.

They regarded it as adding insult to injury that the government was backing the appeal by North and East Devon health authority against a High Court decision requiring it to provide free nursing care to a woman in a nursing home - a decision that is in line with the commission's main recommendation that the NHS must provide free nursing care.

With a massive 99.1 per cent vote, delegates backed an emergency resolution demanding full implementation of the commission's recommendations 'so that older people receive high-quality care, free at the point of delivery'. The motion was backed by Dame June Clark, who served on the commission.

The present system was 'not fair, not honest, not working and a disgrace to a civilised society', she said. The motion was also backed remotely by Mona Grey, former Northern Ireland chief nurse, who now lives in a nursing home.

Describing herself as 'aged 88-and-a-half' - every six months is important at that age - Ms Grey submitted a late resolution calling for full implementation of the commission's proposals. 'To ignore or attempt to dilute' free nursing and personal care for elderly people in care 'is an unacceptable injustice and should be addressed now' she wrote.