The new NHS national director of older people's services began work this week, chairing the first meeting of the government's taskforce on older people.

Ian Philp, professor of health care for elderly people at Northern General Hospital, was appointed by health secretary Alan Milburn last week to tackle ageism in the NHS.

Suffolk health authority chief executive David White, a taskforce member, said the first meeting had been 'excellent', with participants looking at the taskforce's 'role, responsibilities and our different ways of working'.

He was 'impressed' with Professor Philp's chairing of 'quite a diverse and large group and his commitment to older people'.

Taskforce member David Panter, chief executive of Hillingdon primary care trust, welcomed Professor Philp's appointment. Professor Philp's work on the national service framework was also important because the taskforce is going to have 'a key role' in implementing it, he said.

Mr Milburn said Professor Philp would work 'on the basis of the forthcoming older persons' 'blueprint for care'' - the national service framework on which Professor Philp advised as co-chair of the external reference group.

Mr White said taskforce members had received 'an informed briefing' on the framework. He anticipated that it would 'set some very clear expectations and challenge thinking to date'.

But at a meeting of the Commons health committee this month, MP John Austin asked when the framework would be issued. It had been expected before the last parliamentary recess, he said, but there had been 'rumours of conflict' among the working party.

Department of Health head of social care policy David Walden replied: 'I think the minister said he hoped it would be published before the end of the year.'

MPs also quizzed officials over how nursing care would be separated from personal care in residential and nursing homes, after the government rejected the Royal Commission on Long-term Care's recommendation to make personal care, as well as nursing care, free.

Mr Walden said there 'would always be a role for individual nurses' in assessing patients.

A working group was looking at 'a standardised assessment procedure'.

Committee chair David Hinchliffe, warned that the DoH was 'really giving a rationing role to people in the front line'.

But in Scotland, new first minister Henry McLeish has said that he will look again at the royal commission's recommendations.

Full implementation had been rejected by the cabinet last month, but Mr McLeish said a reversal in policy direction had been 'forced by public opinion'.