Private Care and Public Responsibility

News of a £350,000 refund by the National Health Service to the families of elderly people, forced to fund their own care home fees, has recently made the front pages.

Readers were forcefully reminded that the NHS is legally responsible for funding any person whose primary need is for health care (as opposed to personal care).

After years of confusion as to how the NHS should give effect to court decisions in this area, the introduction of a National Framework in late 2007 was expected to end any ‘postcode lottery’ and to introduce greater transparency and consistency into decision making.

However, the fact that in 2008-9 the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman upheld, partially or totally, 75% of appeals against NHS refusal to fund care fees suggests that the National Framework has not resolved the problems.

The Daily Mail recently reported that one firm of solicitors, acting on behalf of nearly 750 clients, had recovered over £8 million in fees from the NHS.

Given the high cost of funding residential or nursing care and the confusion which exists about the rules relating to NHS and local authority contribution, it is perhaps surprising that so few people take legal advice when a parent or family member is facing admission into a care home.

Obtaining professional advice may save a potential claimant tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of pounds.

August 2009