Labour has proposed providing free social care to patients with a terminal illness and ending means testing, the party announced yesterday.

Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said the proposals would save millions of pounds and give older people better care.

He told Unison’s health conference in Brighton: “Labour will propose removing the means test for end-of-life care - effectively giving everyone who wants it the opportunity to receive free social care in their own home at the end of their lives. This is the right thing to do but it could save millions and give older people much better care for the money we spend.

“True integration will open up new possibilities to deliver care differently, allowing more people to choose home-based end-of-life care in a way that the current system simply isn’t geared up to do. and reducing the number of people who die in hospital but would rather be at home.

“This could be the first step towards a whole person approach to care - a vision for the integration of our physical, mental and social care system.”

Mr Burnham said he believed the NHS should take over responsibility for “whole-person care” at the end of life, integrating the physical, social and mental.

“It should be available quickly, in the place of the person’s choosing, without the stress of navigating between the health and social care systems and going through complex means testing.

“It will mean more services delivered closer to home and out of the hospital. It might mean difficult changes to hospitals but, if people can see the benefits, they will be ready to accept them.”

Christina McAnea, Unison’s head of health, welcomed the announcement, saying: “People with a terminal illness should be able to choose where to spend their final days, regardless of worries about how much it will cost their loved one.

“All families deserve the chance to make the most of precious final days together in a place where they feel most comfortable.

“Providing a tailored, comprehensive and dignified service means building into these proposals provisions for well trained and properly paid staff.”