Health trusts in Britain have been accused of failing to publicise a compensation scheme that allows elderly people to claim back tens of thousands of pounds they were wrongly charged in care home fees.
Solicitors Farley Dwek believes the NHS is doing the bare minimum to communicate its Continuing Healthcare Fund that allows care home residents who qualify to recoup backdated care home fees they should not have been charged.
The final deadline for claims relating to the period from April 2011 to March 2012 is on March 31, and Farley Dwek has slammed primary care trusts for hiding the policy amid the countless pages on their websites.
Director Andrew Farley said: ‘This is a national disgrace and if the Government is to avoid being accused of a cover up it has to give the NHS the resources it needs to communicate this policy effectively.‘Putting it up on a single webpage where it will never be found is scandalous.
‘We estimate the Government had earmarked at least Â£10m for the relatives of victims but we believe they are quietly satisfied at the relatively slow take â€“ thanks to a strategy of trying to keep the issue low profile.’
Social care is subject to a means test, with residents with assets worth more than Â£23,250 – including property – expected to fund the cost of their care,With the average bill for a care home room now costing in excess of Â£27,000 a year, many have to sell their home to foot the bill.But there are benefits available that cover part or all of the cost, of which the NHS Continuing Healthcare scheme is one.
People with significant health needs – for example if they would otherwise be taking up a hospital bed – qualify for the scheme and would have all of their care home fees paid by the NHS, with no cap on the cost.It is the responsibility of primary care trusts – which are in the process of being wound down in favour of clinical commissioning groups – to administer the scheme.
But many residents are believed to have fallen through the cracks and over the last decade were not assessed for eligibility, leaving them to have to fork out for their care on their own.Those who qualified but did not receive the funding between April 2004 and March 2011 can no longer claim backdated funding, as the deadline for such claims passed in September.But claims can still be made for care during 2011/12 until the end of March.
Mr Farley said: ‘We’re handling more than 250 cases and it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
But the Department for Health has said it has made it clear to the NHS that people should be informed about the upcoming deadline.She said: ‘We asked the NHS to let people know about these deadlines and that we would encourage them to contact their local primary care trust if they think they are eligible.’
Health minister Norman Lamb said: ‘The deadline to register for an assessment is approaching and we want everyone that should have been entitled to be assessed for a past period of care to be considered as soon as possible.‘In March 2012 we asked the NHS to communicate this deadline as quickly and effectively as possible to local people through whatever means necessary.’Those who think they should have been assessed for the scheme, or a relative who thinks a loved one should have been assessed, need to call their primary care trust before March 31.
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