On The Edge TV interview with Angela Sherman, founder of Care To be Different
In this clip, Angela Sherman talks about her appeal to the Strategic Health Authority about the NHS’s denial of NHS Continuing Healthcare. She also talks about her application for emergency funding from Social Services. The interview was recorded before her parents died.
Duration: 00:07:53. Watch it here. [TV clip © Edge Media]
… or read the transcript below:
TC = Theo Chalmers (interviewer), On The Edge
AS = Angela Sherman, founder, Care To Be Different
SS = Simon Stone, lawyer, Kingsley David Solicitors
[Talking about the fact that Angela realised she would have to fight her father’s corner as well as her mother’s…]
TC: Because he’d been assessed as well presumably?
AS: Yes, although we will come on to that because it was a slightly different case.
TC: So here you are, you’ve gone to the fourth assessment, they have declined to arrive at any conclusion for 6 months –
AS: Well, then it went on to October.
TC: You can’t appeal so this is now 10 months. You can’t appeal because without the judgement, if you like, you can’t appeal it, so this is now 10 months. Presumably were they hoping your mother would suffer some sort of catastrophe?
AS: I think, actually, at that time there were so many people raising this issue that there was just this huge backlog. But that doesn’t excuse the fact that there was no communication. But at that time – and this was a real low point – my Mum ran out of money to pay for her care. There was no more money and I wrote to Social Services and said you have to help us. What do we do? How do we pay for care?
TC: What would they have done? Thrown her on the street?
AS: Well, I applied for temporary financial assistance, which is emergency funding.
TC: Did they say you should pay?
AS: The care home did, at one point, come after me for money because they need to be paid, but it’s a really difficult situation. So Social Services started to fund her on a temporary basis, which we would then have to pay back, but at least she could stay in the care home.
TC: She still had her house?
AS: Yes, she did still have her house – at the time we couldn’t sell it because it has subsidence, but that’s –
TC: You had tried to sell it?
AS: Yes, we had tried to sell it.
TC: But at least they had the house.
AS: So, still nothing from the Strategic Health Authority – so I wrote to the Healthcare Commission again and they said that on account of the delay, maybe they should fast track it the Health Service Ombudsmen and, very strangely, at that point I received a date for the tribunal.
TC: But there had been the tribunal already hadn’t there?
AS: No, this was the one I was waiting for – the independent tribunal.
TC: Sorry, hadn’t it already happened?
AS: No, so it was now a year on.
TC: I’m sorry, I thought it had happened – that they just hadn’t arrived at a judgement.
AS: No, no still waiting for the tribunal.
TC: I beg your pardon, so a year on…
AS: So a year on we finally got a date for the tribunal and Simon and myself we put together a submission for that, and the guidance that Simon was able to give me was excellent.
TC: What was the guidance Simon?
SS: Well, there has been a lot of this going on, so there was a lot of information. At this point, when Angela was going through these difficulties, I was not versed in this area of law, so I had to learn it as I was going along – and it became very clear to me that there is a huge gap here where there is a tremendous need that is not fulfilled by the authorities that exist. So I had to go and find where the law was and put together an argument for, and it was then when we discovered these cases, which have now become landmark cases and you mentioned one just now – the Pamela Coughlan case. We put a submission based on the law and, in particular, on Angela’s mother’s condition. You’ve got to bear in mind that this tribunal also doesn’t see Angela’s mother, so we had to depict what she looked like and show –
TC: What bring photographs?
SS: No, we had to do it in words.
TC: Like mime? Like Marcel Marceau?
SS: Just simply in words, talking about what she can do, her state of health, her skin condition, the fact that she is mainly confined to bed, her cognitive skills or otherwise, as the case may be, and by doing that we were able to describe this very poorly woman in our view, and hopefully make them understand that this is a case of primary health need. To take the example, Pamela Coughlan suffered a terrible car accident in 1971 and, as a result of that, she was wheelchair bound, very seriously injured and she couldn’t care for herself. If you were to see her, you would see she is a medical need and yet it took… this case went all the way to the Court of Appeal. It won in the High Court. The NHS appealed it to the Court of Appeal, they lost and as a result of that, we had this very good precedent that said ‘this world here is in disarray and it needs to be tidied up. The guidelines that are issued are all over the place. Some NHS authorities deal with it this way, some deal with it that way. There is no synergy between them’.
TC: Do you think that there is pressure on the Primary Care Trust or NHS generally to refuse these cases because of the cost? Is it all about money?
SS: As a cynic, I’d say absolutely, of course there is, I am sure there are lots of people in these assessments who go to work with the intention of doing a very good job in accordance with the law, and the rules and regulations that apply, but I can’t help but believe there is a need to protect the public purse, so far as these people are concerned, so they would like ideally the NHS to pass it over to the local authorities – who would like really very much to send it back to the NHS!
TC: I’ve got a text here from Paul in Warrington who says, “It’s advisable to get a lawyer to safeguard your home. Give it to a family member. If not the state will take it from you to pay for care.” Is that advisable?
SS: I wish it was. It’s not quite as simple as that. If you have deprived yourself of an asset with a view to helping yourself, if you are going to go into any form of care, then the asset can be recovered [by the state].
TC: The government can go after your house even if you have given it to your daughter for instance?
SS: Absolutely. There are certain time limits involved with this, but it also depends on your intentions so regrettably that’s a very simple way forward and it’s almost a good ‘barrack room lawyers point’, but regrettably the law has caught up with that and says no.
TC: OK, so you can’t do that. So you advised Angela and you put together this case for her, so on the day itself, tell me a little bit about this appeals panel.
[Angela had the support and informal guidance of lawyer friend, Simon Stone, but put together and presented the majority of her case herself.]
AS: It’s made up of about six people. When we got there I was a little bit unnerved because actually two of the people were actually from the NHS, which I thought was a little bit… not really independent!
TC: The people who were deciding?
AS: A couple of the people deciding were from the NHS, but not from the same area.
TC: It’s like me deciding whether I should pay tax or not, isn’t it?
AS: It is, although they were from a different area, but it still didn’t seem just quite right. But we went into this room where there was a panel of people and we were able to put forward our case and answer questions and we were in there for about an hour and a half.
SS: I was expecting something which was rather awkward, having regard to the difficulties Angela had already experienced in putting these submissions forward by letter, but they were very good at listening to what we had to say and hearing our argument.
TC: All right, so they listened nicely. What happened next?
AS: And then we went away. They did what they did and they had to come up with a decision – and, fortunately, they decided that my Mum had been paying fees illegally and she should have been funded, and they agreed to backdate all of the fees from about April 2006.