On The Edge TV interview with Angela Sherman, founder of Care To be Different
In this clip, Angela Sherman talks about the lack of care in the NHS system and the financial injustice for elderly people. The interview was recorded before her parents died.
Duration: 00:08:46. 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
TC: Welcome back. Before we go any further, I should say that we can’t give out any legal advice on this programme. If you need legal advice on this subject you have to consult a solicitor.
Having said that, I am going to go straight to the text here, we have one from Linda in Birmingham: “This is what I have been saying for years. I am a nurse. It’s all about money. The NHS is little to do with care now.” Is that your experience?
AS: I would agree. There is very little care in health or social care. There are some good people in health and social care, but the whole system does not care.
TC: Margaret from Bedford said, “I really admire Angela and Simon’s enduring commitment. It will be a great source of encouragement for those in a similar situation.” – and we hope we can be encouraging for people in a similar situation. So, you had a victory with your mother on the fourth or fifth attempt and they agreed to refund most of her care fees. Why not all?
AS: They decided before April 2006 she actually didn’t qualify, and at that point I just did not want to go back and fight that one.
TC: But why did they say… What was the reason?
AS: They said that before then her needs were social needs, so they were needs that had to be means tested.
TC: She had Parkinson’s Disease for 25 years… I don’t have to tell you this, you know of course. She had had three strokes over a period before she went into the nursing home and she had dementia before she went into the nursing home.
AS: And it was gradually getting worse.
TC: So it was a lie when they said she didn’t need to be nursed.
AS: Yes, I felt she should have had all her fees repaid. You have to make a decision about where you put your energy, and at that point I was also starting to fight for my Dad.
TC: Well, we will get on to him, but let’s talk about your mother a bit more. I’m interested – how did you feel about this, about the NHS?
AS: I was absolutely elated to receive the letter, it was a very emotional moment. I remember sitting on the stairs reading it, crying my eyes out with relief, exhaustion, anger, rage – the rage that had actually kept me going, fighting. It was a useful rage, but it was also a very damaging rage if you let it get out of hand. I was so angry about the whole thing, but I was absolutely delighted the panel had agreed to refund. You know, I felt it was some justice for Mum and it was something and it was a good victory.
TC: Did they pay your legal costs?
TC: Did they pay any costs for your time? You must have given up time from your work?
AS: No, the money that they repay is purely for the person who has had the care.
TC: So they let you fight and fight and fight and spend a lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of stress and then you win eventually, a combination of hard work and perhaps a little bit of luck, but even then it’s like a grudging victory.
AS: The NHS says that in the event of something like this, they will return the person to their financial position before it happened. Well, that’s total rubbish because you cannot claw back investments that you have cashed in, you cannot, if you have sold your house, you cannot ‘unsell’ your house, you cannot put that person back to the same position – and if I were to claim my costs, I would have to litigate and at that point it just wasn’t in my –
TC: What are the implications of that? Simon if you were to go to law in that sense and litigate, what are the implications?
SS: The implications are horrid because it takes, again, an enormous amount of time. It takes cash, unless you are going to find a lawyer who can do it on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis, and there are some that would do it. You have also got to make sure you are filtering out the lawyers to get to those that are very capable in this area. Of course, there are lots of firms of lawyers not necessary able to pursue a case of this type, so you have to find the right people at the right price, and then if you can’t get a ‘no win, no fee’ you have got to find the money to do it.
TC: Even if you have a ‘no win, no fee’, and correct me if I am wrong here, is it not the case here, if you lose your case, all the costs of the NHS, who no doubt hire the most expensive barristers and lawyers, fall on your lap. And even if you are on a ‘no win, no fee’ with your firm of lawyers, you might have to sell your own house to pay for the ‘fat cat’ lawyers (excuse me for saying that Simon) of the NHS.
SS: It’s the cat bit that got me there! I think that most of these firms will run an insurance scheme which will help in those instances, and anybody who would embark upon litigation without a fallback, is foolish.
TC: But it is still a very hazardous course. When we spoke about this earlier, that in order to pursue the law you either had to be very poor or very rich, but if you are somewhere in the middle, as most people are, it’s not a wise course of action.
SS: It’s very difficult. I mean, my job, I think, as a lawyer, is to keep people out of court. In this case, with Angela, because I am not a litigation lawyer, I needed to have the support of a firm that will be there if we needed to go to that next step and in fact, I was speaking with them recently, an excellent firm of lawyers in Cardiff, who are pioneering a way forward with these sort of cases. They have got 700 cases currently that they are dealing with and they have recovered £4.5 million already. It’s a tremendous unit and they are working very hard for people there, and they were going to be there backing us up if we needed to go that next step.
TC: And, OK, we are going to get to that obviously because we are going to get to your father.
Let me just read another text here, this is a chap called Brian from Maesteg, I imagine somewhere in Wales: “Can the NHS afford to fulfil their obligations on this matter?” Do you have an opinion? Do you know, either of you?
AS: Well there are about 420,000 people in care homes in the UK.
TC: Is this England and Wales?
SS: We’re talking mainly here about England, because the system in Wales is slightly different.
TC: And Scotland is very different, isn’t it?
TC: So there are 420,000 where?
AS: In the whole of the UK. At the moment, there are about 30,000 people receiving the kind of funding I fought for. That’s a small percentage of all those people in care homes. If we assume there are about 60% of people in care homes who have dementia, so if we look at that kind of figure and if, suppose, all those people, that 60%, were to have funding in this way, that’s a huge amount of money and I doubt if the NHS can afford it – but there must be a more transparent way of doing this.
TC: Or they have to tell the truth. They have to say sorry we are not going to look after you, perhaps?
AS: Perhaps, but, in my view, elderly people have been utterly betrayed because they were sold a line that their taxes, all their lives, would pay for the NHS, which would be there for them. They have paid the most into it and now they are just left as a separate part of society that doesn’t ‘need’ the care that everyone else gets.
SS: I think that if we were to look at this properly, the NHS system simply does not have enough money to do what it needs to do or what we expect the NHS to do. We need to put far more into the system than that. As you can imagine, we have got a political level, the NHS is good, it’s there to care for us, it’s there to promote health – and then we have the ‘grey suit brigade’, who are there to say, “How can we make sure we don’t leak out too much money?” – and then you have got the people at the bottom trying to make the assessments.
TC: But there are also the care homes. Paul in Warrington has texted again: “Care in these homes is substandard – charges from £350 per week plus. My wife used to work in one”, so I dare say he knows. What was your experience of the care home that you parents were in?
AS: You never know what a care home will be like until someone is there. The one that my parents were in is no worse, no better than others. It’s probably –
TC: You can’t actually say, they might be watching…
AS: Its fine, the people there are nice, it’s the system that is the problem. The staff are great, they are lovely people, it’s the whole system, the whole way we treat elderly people that’s the problem.