Sick pensioners will no longer have their benefits cut after the first six weeks of a hospital stay.
Bowing to pressure from pensioner groups and MPs on all sides of the Commons, pensions minister Ian McCartney said patients would be able to claim benefits for the first 13 weeks.
The decision also applies to non-pensioner patients who have in the past lost out on a series of benefits, including incapacity benefit and income support.
McCartney said: “Over 97 per cent of people who go into hospital are not affected by the rules – but I want to do something more to ease the worry and disruption for the other three per cent. People have fixed commitments, such as housing costs and utility bills, while they are in hospital and we have decided to be more generous.”
Steve Webb, the Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokesman, described the concession as “miserly”.
With a £2.5bn surplus in national insurance payments, the government could afford to maintain benefit to every sick patient, he claimed. David Willetts, the Tories’ work and pensions spokesman, welcomed the “modest concession” but added: “The government hasn’t tackled the real fear for many pensioners, which is the difficulty of getting their benefit reinstated on leaving hospital. I have heard numerous horror stories from pensioners who have suffered weeks of delay after leaving hospital before their pension is restored.”