Published: 14/04/2005, Volume II5, No. 5951 Page 6

The system of managing long-term care in England is far too complicated and confusing for elderly and disabled people trying to access funding from the NHS, according to MPs.

The Commons health select committee found the current system was 'bewildering' and 'little understood even by those who administer it'.

Continuing care is provided for patients who no longer need to be in hospital but still have significant healthcare requirements. Eligibility is determined by assessments of a patient's health needs, as distinct from social care needs such as help with washing or eating.

The committee highlighted concerns over the conduct of primary care trust panels in reviewing cases.

'We are concerned that panels will service a gatekeeping function to manage demand on primary care trust financial resources, ' the report said.

The MPs also said the difference between health and social care was interpreted differently by different SHAs. They called for a single set of eligibility criteria to avoid accusations of a 'postcode lottery'.

www. publications. parliament. uk/pa/ cm/cmhealth. htm