Personal care costs rise by 150% in seven years
The cost of providing free personal care to people in their own homes has risen by more than 150% in seven years, according to the Scottish government.
Helping people with personal care such as washing and dressing cost £342m in 2010-11, up from £133m in 2003-04.
The government said the rise reflected the fact that an increasing proportion of older people were cared for at home rather than in hospital or care homes.
Personal care costs for people in care homes rose by 25%, from £86m to £108m.
Personal or nursing care payments are available to self-funding care home residents who have assets, including property, worth more than £23,500.
The number of people receiving these payments to help pay their care home fees increased steadily in the first few years of the policy. Currently, just under a third of all older people in care homes receive the payments.
The number of people receiving free personal care at home has also increased by 42% over the same period, from 32,870 in 2003-04 to 46,720 in 2010-11.
Free personal care was introduced by the Scottish government in 2002, and the policy was reviewed in 2008.
About 77,000 people in Scotland now receive help in their own homes and in care homes compared with 64,000 when the policy was first introduced.
Jackson Carlaw, Scottish Conservative health spokesman and deputy leader MSP, said: "If the SNP wants to continue funding free personal care, then it has to be far less casual in extending other entitlements and refusing to find ways to make them more sustainable.
"That is why we opposed free prescriptions, and why we want to align free transport to the pensionable age in future.
"A responsible government in Scotland cannot ignore the facts, kidding everyone on that everything and anything is affordable. We all know that there is an unprecedented demographic challenge waiting around the corner."
Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour's health speaker, said her party was fully committed to the policy.
But she added: "My fear is the quality of care we provide for people will be compromised as a result of the strain on finances and the elderly and the vulnerable will pay another kind of price in a drop in standards of care.
"We have previously suggested creating a National Care Service to join up budgets and set a minimum standard of care but are open to working with the Scottish government to look at ways to ensure personal care is sustainable in the long-term."
'Greatly valued service'
Health Secretary, Nicola Sturgeon, said: "These figures show that each year an increasing number of older people continue to benefit from free personal and nursing care.
"This reflects the Scottish government's focus on more intensive support to frail older people at home or in a homely setting, as well as the continuing shift in the balance of care towards providing care at home.
"We are fully committed to the funding of free personal care for the elderly, a service greatly valued by the people of Scotland.
"The challenges posed by an ageing population demonstrate why we want to see health and social care for adults delivered in an integrated way by NHS.