Major care homes still flout rules on ‘after death’ fees
Three of Britain’s biggest care home operators still charge families for more than three days after the death of a resident, despite warnings from the competition watchdog that such terms are unfair.
Many care homes charge for a short period after a resident’s death to cover the time a room must be kept empty to be cleared and cleaned. But in its advice for care home providers, published last week, the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) said charges for more than three days could be unenforceable under consumer law.
Care companies were made aware in January of the new rules, but Telegraph Money can disclose that three of Britain’s five biggest providers still charge for a week.
Barchester Healthcare, which has almost 200 care homes, charges for a week after a resident’s death, although it previously charged for a fortnight.
A spokesman said: “In light of the CMA’s consultation, we have been looking at whether we need to change our policy in respect of these charges. Obviously, the highly detailed guidance adds another dimension and we will need time to digest its contents.”
Bupa, which houses 6,500 residents in 137 homes across the country, also charges for a week. The company is reviewing this with a view to reducing it to three days.
HC-One, which has 350 homes, has not altered its policy of charging for up to seven days. A spokesman said: “We always seek to be flexible and will consider individual circumstances and each family’s needs where possible, and if the room is cleared before the seven-day notice period is over, we will stop charging at that point. HC-One takes very seriously its responsibility to always ensure that our residents’ consumer rights are protected.”
Care UK, which has 7,500 residents, has reduced charges to three days, provided that the room is cleared in this time, and will stop charging if the room is reoccupied before the three days are up. Four Seasons Health Care has always capped its charge at three days.
The average weekly cost of care is now £605, according to industry analysts LaingBuisson. James Daley of Fairer Finance, a consumer group, said the cost of an empty room should be included in the headline cost, not added as an extra. “It shows a lack of sensitivity and feels callous,” he said.