Why there are fears about the NHS Continuing Healthcare squeeze.
The Guardian has reported that many people receiving NHS Continuing Healthcare are living in fear of losing their independence and being placed in a care home due to the squeeze on what clinical commissioning groups are paying towards care.
The Government has placed increasing pressure on services to make savings. Earlier this year, the Public Accounts Committee reported that it would be difficult for NHS Continuing Healthcare to remain the same due to the expected increase in demand, and without extra funding there was no way that the care packages could remain fully funded or that there wouldn’t be some adjustment to eligibility.
The Guardian report makes for difficult reading. Many people have gained independence due to NHS Continuing Healthcare. It has enabled people (who often have complex needs) to remain at home and be able to pursue their interests in life. However, for some, this is all coming under pressure.
One story reported was of Lucy Watts, who has osteoporosis but was able to live at home thanks to NHS Continuing Healthcare. However, when her mother was diagnosed with a brain tumour, Lucy turned to her clinical commissioning group as she would need extra support while her mother received treatment. Lucy was told that the only option was to go into a care home and, more horrifyingly, once she took up residence in the care home she would not be able to go out (even to attend her own medical appointments). The CCG did back down after Lucy threatened legal action, but it should never have reached that point. NHS Continuing Healthcare is designed to look after people at home, in residential settings, hospitals and/or care homes.
Lucy though has insisted that she believes that her independence was seen as “too costly” and that to save money, the CCG was pushing to get her into a care home. This is not just an issue specific to NHS Continuing Healthcare. Last year, the European Court of Human Rights warned that because of cost-cutting, disabled people were at risk of being “interned” in care homes. Those in receipt of NHS Continuing Healthcare may be far more at risk of such a situation, because their health needs can be quite complex, particularly for those who have dementia, MS, mobility issues and/or severe cognitive impairments.
What this means for people receiving NHS Continuing Healthcare.
While this is an issue that disabled people are reporting without support, it is also an issue for those who are specifically in receipt of NHS Continuing Healthcare. A Money Mail investigation earlier this year found that around 21,000 people were being reassessed each year, and while reassessments must take place, some reported that they were losing out on their care package despite the fact that their needs had actually increased.
This all presents a worrying picture about what people going through the NHS Continuing Healthcare process face. The legislation is clear that fully funded care must be given to those deemed to have a primary health need. Yet, the backdrop of cuts has risked putting a strain on services to which people have a right to.
What you can do to protect your NHS Continuing Healthcare package.
Unfortunately, Lucy’s story isn’t uncommon. At Just Caring Legal, I hear similar stories and it can be incredibly distressing for people to fear that they are about to lose a care package that they rely upon every single day. However, as in Lucy’s case, taking legal action if you find your funding is under pressure can make CCGs reconsider. It can be the best way to protect your care. Sometimes, there simply aren’t the grounds for people to lose funding, but they find it under threat anyway as they just don’t have the resources to be able to fight the decision within the system. This is why having an advocate who has expert medio-legal knowledge can make all of the difference in such cases.
If you’re worried that your NHS Continuing Healthcare package may be under threat, or that you are not getting the funding or care that you are entitled to then contact Rosalind Hughes at Just Caring Today. You can call now on 0191 556 1078 or email Rosalind at [email protected].