How do care fees fit with our duty to care?
A friend of mine, during an unexpected visit to hospital in another EU country, had a conversation with one of the nurses about the care system in the UK.
My friend explained to the nurse that older people in the UK are forced to sell their homes to pay for the essential healthcare and nursing care they need. Not only that, they are forced to hand over their life savings and everything they may have wanted to leave to their children.
The nurse asked, “But how does that fit with our duty to care for those people?”
Good question. And it’s one that many UK families ask every day – and especially those who have come face to face with the ageist and budget-motivated funding approach that is being used by many health and social ‘care’ authorities. Healthcare, it would seem, has often lost the desire to actually care.
Since when did the NHS Constitution limit free healthcare to younger people only?
Deceit and ageism is sadly all too apparent when it comes to NHS care for the oldest generation, people who are often the most vulnerable and ill. For those needing full time care, healthcare (just like for other people) should be provided free of charge. The NHS Constitution clearly outlines this, confirming that NHS care should meet the needs of everyone, that it be free at the point of delivery and that it should NOT be based on ability to pay.
One of the care funding mechanisms for full time care is NHS Continuing Healthcare. But even if a family is aware of this funding, assessments are often carried out incorrectly and health needs are ignored, resulting in NHS care funding being declined. Obstacles and delays are often put in a family’s way by the NHS and by local authorities, many families are simply told by all and sundry their relative ‘won’t qualify’ – or they are simply ‘overlooked’.
The stark reality when an older person needs care is that it’s no longer their health needs that dictate what the state should provide; instead, it is what’s in their wallet.
It will come as no surprise to those locked in battle with the NHS on behalf of an older relative that the free healthcare available to most people in the UK – the same free healthcare the law specifically provides for – is often illegally withdrawn when the authorities know it’s for an older person, and especially when the authorities know that person has a house. As a result, those older people are made to pay for healthcare and nursing care.
People need to know why long term care fees are a con – before it affects their own family
The principle of free healthcare explains why long term care fees are a con. Care providers need to be paid, no question. But by whom?
Nursing care is free in the UK. Logic therefore dictates that any fees charged to an individual by a nursing home for nursing care are inappropriate. Indeed, logic also concludes that there should be no difference between residential fees and nursing fees – at least not to the person needing care.
Few other, if any, sections of the population are asked about money when they access healthcare, and yet older people are almost always asked to pay for care – before their health needs have even been assessed.
We need a tsunami of media coverage to expose what goes on in NHS Continuing Healthcare
NHS Continuing Healthcare funding has been in the press a fair bit over the last year or so, primarily in account of the questionable care fees reclaim deadlines set by the Dept. of Health in 2012.
But a bit of press coverage here and there is a far cry from what’s really needed to help the wider population understand what is likely to lie ahead for their own older relatives.
Many charities are now promoting the issue more widely, which is great, but still most people in the UK believe you always have to pay for care when you get old. That is, after all, what the state tells us.
The issue of care fees are likely to affect most families at some point, and people need to be aware and informed – now. Instead, we have Government ministers attempting to distract people from the real issues in ‘photo opportunities’, rolling up their sleeves and being filmed visiting or ‘helping out’ in a hospital, proclaiming of course what a wonderful institution our NHS is.
It doesn’t fool the exhausted families who, every day, are fighting the fierce protectionism of NHS assessors and budget holders on behalf of those they love – vulnerable older people who have already paid for their healthcare and nursing care their whole lives through taxation, and yet this cowardly healthcare system sees them as easy prey.
By ordinary people spreading the word about Continuing Healthcare funding at every opportunity, we can help ensure that more people realise what’s going on. It’s important that people know their older relatives don’t necessarily have to lose their homes to pay for care.
If you’re fighting a battle for NHS Continuing Care funding, you’ll find lots of useful information on our website and blog, and if you need step-by-step guidance through the Continuing Healthcare assessment process, take a look at our e-guide, How To Get The NHS To Pay For Care. It shows you what to do – and what not to do.