Ma­jor care homes still flout rules on ‘after death’ fees

The Daily Telegraph - Your Money - - MONEY - Sam Mead­ows

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.

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