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Councils stop elderly from getting help

Thousands of elderly people are paying nursing home fees that should be covered by the NHS.

At the heart of this problem is whether those going into a nursing home qualify for NHS “continuing care”. Unlike care provided by the local authority, this is not means tested, so those qualifying should get their care bills paid in full by the NHS, regardless of whether or not they are home owners.

This can make a huge financial difference to many families. Those who don’t qualify for continuing care face stringent means tests. Anyone with assets of more than £23,250, which in most cases will include the value of the family home, will have to pay the lion’s share of their care costs.

Thousands of elderly people are paying nursing home fees that should be covered by the NHS.

At the heart of this problem is whether those going into a nursing home qualify for NHS “continuing care”. Unlike care provided by the local authority, this is not means tested, so those qualifying should get their care bills paid in full by the NHS, regardless of whether or not they are home owners.

This can make a huge financial difference to many families. Those who don’t qualify for continuing care face stringent means tests. Anyone with assets of more than £23,250, which in most cases will include the value of the family home, will have to pay the lion’s share of their care costs.

The problem has been raised before by the Health Service Ombudsman who has published a number of highly critical reports in to this area over the past five years. This led to the establishment in 2008 of national eligibility criteria, which all local health authorities have to follow when assessing who should qualify for care.

According to Age UK, the charity, the national guidelines have led to an increase in the number of people qualifying for continuing care. But they also said that there is still a “postcode lottery” as there are marked regional variations as to whether people get this help.

Some local authorities complete a financial assessment prior to the health assessment in an effort to avoid the cost of carrying out the second one if the patient is a self funder. Health authorities should conduct these assessments as a matter of course, but many do not. They are also obliged to review assessments on a regular basis, but again, this does not always happen.

This is a difficult time for families and in my opinion it is important that they seek advice. I am afraid that there is usually little guidance give by the local authority, other than being sent away with a brochure of local care homes.

People need help in choosing a care package, or a home and advice on how to pay any fees. This should include information on benefits, as well as how to get their health needs properly assessed by their local authority.

Lynn Osborne from Clarity Care, a company that provides independent individual advice to families struggling to find the best health and social care support for their older relative, says:

Often people come to us when they are trying to balance providing support for their relative with a career,,the needs of their own family and often living at a distance.  Frequently when people call us they are at a point of emotional turmoil and frustrated and confused about the complexities of the care system.   We are able to provide them with independent, individual advice to help them identify, choose and obtain the health and social care support they and their relative need. We work flexibly to fit around our clients availability rather than them working around us to ensure they receive the support when and where they need it.”

www.claritycareconsulting.co.uk

 

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