April 11th, 2016 | Express
More than 15,000 people who applied for help from a little-known NHS fund for patients with chronic conditions have not been told whether they qualify for help, potentially leaving the Government with a £200million bill.The Continuing Healthcare fund is meant to meet the costs of cases such as catastrophic strokes, which can leave victims paralysed and with severe dementia, with needs beyond the help social care can provide.It is aimed at patients with serious longterm conditions and includes provisions for paying nursing home costs of up to £40,000.
Yet one-in-four claims for backdated payments made before March 2013 has still not been settled, affecting almost 16,000 vulnerable people across England.
Many of these are thought to have died while their families awaited a decision. Other families have been forced to sell their homes to pay for round-the-clock help even though the NHS should be contributing to the bill.Now ministers have said some are in line for “redress payments”, after they initially promised that applications would be “considered as soon as possible”.
NHS rules state that payments should be made where blunders in administering Continuing Healthcare have “caused injustice or hardship”.
They provide compensation as well as covering lost interest payments and any legal fees on top of the cost of the care that families had to fund in the first place.As long ago as March 2012, the Department of Health acknowledged that many people had missed out on Continuing Healthcare because of widespread ignorance and invited claims for the period April 2011 to March 2012.But three years on, the department has admitted that of 59,000 requests lodged by March 2013, 15,716 are “awaiting a decision on eligibility”.Health minister Alistair Burt said: “It is not possible to assess how many of these individuals may be entitled to redress payments until a full assessment of eligibility is undertaken.”
The charity Age UK described it as a shambles and warned the huge backlog was likely to be delaying help for people making new claims.Director Caroline Abrahams said: “Continuing Healthcare can offer a lifeline to older people and their families who may be at their lowest and most vulnerable, and who may be faced with high care costs because of a long-term health condition.“Waiting years for a decision on a case is highly likely to result in unnecessary stress for people and their families.”NHS England said an unprecedented number of requests for help were made by the 2013 deadline, and it had therefore taken more time than expected to process the applications.
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