Tens of thousands of families are being denied vital NHS funding for the care of relatives with dementia and other debilitating illnesses, according to a damning report.
Many are forced to sell their homes to pay for round-the-clock help â€“ even though the health service should be picking up the bill.
Other patients are dying before receiving any money from the bureaucratic system.
Experts are now demanding an overhaul of the NHS continuing healthcare system.
Some trusts have slashed their budgets to such an extent that funding is now nearly a quarter of what it was two years ago.
A scathing report found the system is â€˜not fit for purposeâ€™ and fails â€˜vulnerable people and their families at a time when they need the most supportâ€™.
It claims few people are aware the funding is available or that they may be entitled to it.
Charities including Parkinsonâ€™s UK, the MS Society, and Spinal Injuries Association, along with the Royal College of Nursing have today written to care and support minister Norman Lamb to demand an end to â€˜illogical reassessmentsâ€™ of progressively ill patients.
NHS continuing healthcare is funding for patients who cannot live without medical help, such as those who are paralysed or in the final stages of a degenerative condition such as Alzheimerâ€™s or Parkinsonâ€™s.
Alarmingly, the Government has no figures on the numbers eligible for such care, although 59,000 currently receive it.
Charities have previously estimated another 60,000 should get the money but do not.
An inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Parkinsonâ€™s along with Parkinsonâ€™s UK found patients with long-term illnesses were being unfairly refused funding.
The inquiryâ€™s Failing to Care report found they were subjected to endlessÂ assessments and deferrals, meaning the application process dragged on for months or even years.
Many gave up because the process had gone on for so long or their relative had died.
Patients were assessed by a â€˜tick-boxâ€™ list, and six in ten decisions were made without consulting a specialist in the patientâ€™s condition.
In one case a patient who had been deemed eligible for funding had it withdrawn after they became bed-bound â€“ as assessors said this meant they were less likely to fall.
In some cases families were quizzed about their finances instead of their relativeâ€™s care needs.
Parkinsonâ€™s nurse Karen Guy told the inquiry: â€˜The process is intimidating, humiliating, unfriendly, exhausting, degrading, aggressive, frustrating and adversarial.â€™
Steve Ford, of Parkinsonâ€™s UK, said: â€˜Itâ€™s a disgrace that people are dying while waiting for the funding theyâ€™re entitled to.â€™
An NHS spokesman said it tries to ensure those eligible â€˜receive appropriate care and supportâ€™.
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