Means testing that prevents some terminally-ill patients from receiving free social care would be ended if the Labour party were in power, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham has pledged.
Speaking at public sector union Unison's health conference in Brighton, Mr Burnham said the change would give people the option of spending their final days at home, rather than in hospital, without worrying about how much extra their relatives would have to pay.
Currently, people who choose to die at home face a means test that can leave families with large bills, or encourage them to spend their final days in hospital.
He told delegates:'This is 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.
'It would allow 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 reduce the number of people who die in hospital but would rather be at home.'
Christina McAnea, Unison head of health welcomed the announcement and said it showed recognition of the importance of the staff who provide end-of-life care services.
'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 ones,' she said. '
However, she called on Labour to detail how it would support nurses and other staff who care for patients at home.
'Providing a tailored, comprehensive, dignified service means building into these proposals provisions for well trained, properly paid staff.'
Mr Burnham said removing the means test would cut hospital costs.
'By allowing more people to choose home-based end-of-life care, we will reduce the amount of hospital deaths, potentially saving millions.'