SNP party conference: Neil pledges to keep free personal care for elderly

Health secretary Alex Neil has pledged to maintain free personal care for the elderly and free prescriptions.

Mr Neil insisted that as long as the SNP was in power people would not have to pay for care and prescribed medication.

He hit out at Labour leader Johann Lamont after she called into question whether Scotland could continue to afford such policies, when she demanded an end to the country’s “something for nothing” culture.

Mr Neil, who became health secretary last month, stressed the importance of “maintaining and building upon our commitment to free personal and nursing care”.

He told the conference: “Unlike Johann Lamont – or should it be lamentable – I don’t believe the free personal care is about our senior citizens trying to get something for nothing.

“I say this to Johann Lamont –do you not realise that these elderly people, who are very frail in many cases, they have worked in some cases for 50 years, paid for it through their National Insurance, income tax and other taxes.

“They have worked for it, they have paid for it, they deserve it, and we will make sure it will continue.”

He vowed: “As long as the SNP is in charge of the National Health Service in Scotland, there will be free prescriptions for everybody in Scotland.”

Mr Neil said integrating health and social care would be a “top priority” for him, in order to try to end disputes between health boards and local councils over who should pay for care.

He said: “I find it unacceptable, indeed abhorrent, when the health and social care of any of our people is put at risk as a result of a bureaucratic wrangle between a health authority and a local authority.

“We’re going to put an end to that bureaucratic wrangling.

“That is why a top priority will be the integration of health and social care.”