More elderly forced to sell their homes to fund ‘free’ care
PENSIONERS are being forced to pay for crucial NHS care in record numbers, latest figures reveal.
Continuing Healthcare is supposed to be provided for sick elderly people and those suffering from dementia and other illnesses.
But increasingly, over the past few years, local clinical commissioning groups and councils have made it increasingly hard for assessments for the funding to be successful.
This has left chronically sick pensioners with no choice but to sell their homes to pay for NHS care.
Although the number of Continuing Healthcare assessments is now 16,578 – close to the prepandemic level of 17,653 – the proportion approved continues to fall.
Just one in five were approved for the funding between January and March this year. Campaigners have
‘I’M PARALYSED BUT ASSESSORS CLAIMED I COULD MOVE MY LEGS’
said the rationing of this healthcare is the “biggest public scandal of modern times”.
Stephen Lowe, of retirement specialist Just Group, said more needed to be done to increase public and professional awareness of such an immensely valuable benefit.
He said: “Continuing Healthcare is one of the most valuable packages of state-funded support that people can access, but also one of the most elusive.
“While it is promising to see the number of standard referrals returning to levels seen before the pandemic, the issue remains that awareness of CHC is still very low.
“Given the financial value and peace of mind this care package
RETIRED Detective Inspector Peter Ireland, 78, fought a lengthy battle for his NHS Continuing Healthcare (CHC).
Despite being paralysed from the chest down and able to do very little for himself, he sent two applications for NHS CHC, which were both rejected.
Peter finally won by appealing directly to NHS England, which meant West Sussex Integrated Care Board was told in 2021 to grant the application. But it took most of last year to get funding.
The father of two left the Met Police in 1995 after 34 years.
While in hospital with a heart problem in 2017, he suffered life-changing spinal and brain bleeds, which paralysed him. His right to free care has been backed by numerous medical reports.
Peter said: “Even though I’m paralysed and can’t move my legs, CHC assessors said I could.
“I had to use all my pension paying a live-in carer from Thailand £1,500 a month.
“My local council won’t help unless I go into a care home, which would be extortionately expensive and they would expect me to sell my home to pay for it.
“They did send round a carer when I came out of hospital, but he was a drug dealer. He was charged and banged up.
“They then sent me a bill for £5,000, which I refused to pay.” offers those with complex needs and their families, it is surprising that it is not more well known.
“We would urge people who believe that if either a loved one or themselves could qualify for CHC funding to speak to a qualified healthcare professional, whether that’s a GP, care home or district nurse or a social worker.”
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “These new figures are a big concern because they suggest that NHS Continuing Healthcare is now being rationed even more aggressively than before.
“That’s a bold statement I know, but it’s the only conclusion I can draw. We know that the numbers of older people in our society are increasing year on year, and that the difficult experience of living through the pandemic often accelerated their health and care needs. From this point of view I would expect the numbers and proportion of older people found eligible for this important source of care funding to be going up, not down.”
The latest Department of Health and Social Care statistics continue a gradual downtrend in the eligibility rate, which was about 24 per cent to 26 per cent between 2018-19 and 2020-21, before dropping to 23 per cent in 2021-22 and falling again in the last financial year.
NHS CHC funding is for very ill people outside of hospital, either in their own home or a nursing home, who have significant healthcare needs, resulting from serious illness, disease or disability.
Unlike social care for the elderly and frail but not ill – which is meanstested – NHS CHC funding is free at the point of delivery.
The NHS has a statutory legal duty to provide CHC funding, which is not discretionary or subject to affordability.
Over the past few years patients, their families, MPs and health experts have been highly critical of the system, describing it as “dysfunctional, complex and unlawful”.
Public bodies that have joined the chorus of concern are said to include the National Audit Office, the Public Accounts Committee, the Care Quality Commission and the CHC Alliance.
More than three-quarters of over-45s have never heard of NHS CHC, while a further 14 per cent have heard of CHC but do not know any of the details, a previous survey had found.