Exclusive: Long-term NHS care ‘a postcode lottery’

You’ve probably never heard of NHS Continuing Care funding. It’d be very expensive if everyone knew about it. But I’m going to let you in on the secret.

by Paul Brand: ITV News Correspondent

If you’ve got a mental or physical health need because you’re ill, disabled or you’ve had an accident, you can ask the NHS to pay for all your care. You’re assessed on your health, not on your bank balance, so everyone who’s ill enough is entitled to it. The only problem is you might find you’re a lot less entitled to it if you live in certain parts of England.

ITV News has looked at data provided by the Department of Health showing how many people get NHS Continuing Care within each Primary Care Trust (or NHS Trust). We made some comparisons, and found that if you live somewhere like Barking and Dagenham, you’re almost ten times more likely to receive the funding than if you live somewhere like West Berkshire.

The figures revealed that 158.4 people out of 50,000 received Continuing Care in the best performing areas while only 16.4 people received it in the worst.

What’s more, we went back 18 months and found the gap between the best and worst PCTs has widened dramatically in that time. That’s despite government guidelines saying all PCTs must use the same rules when assessing patients for the funding.

Kate Grillet lives in one of the less generous PCTs. Her husband Christophe is 86 and has late stage Alzheimer’s. He cannot walk, speak, or eat. But his health needs weren’t considered great enough for NHS Cambridgeshire to continue his funding, so they withdrew it in 2010.

Kate now pays £1,100 a week for his care. During our research we found fully-funded patients in other PCTs who could chat, feed themselves and even walk around. You can never compare like for like, but it appears that care standards vary wildly.

NHS Cambridgeshire say they do follow national guidelines and review cases annually. The government point out the number of people getting NHS Continuing Care is generally rising. And the PCT Network reminds patients they can always appeal.

In a statement the Department of Heath said: “We expect Trusts to provide ‘NHS Continuing Healthcare’ to everyone who is entitled to it, following the appropriate assessment process. To help make sure there’s a consistent approach, the Department introduced national guidance and since it was introduced, around 20,000 more people are getting continuing care and variation has reduced. There is still more to be done and we are working to spread good practice and get all Trusts up to the standard of the best.”

But none of these responses really addresses the inequality, and those with the least fight left in them will continue to face some of the biggest battles with the system.

A full table of the number of people receiving NHS Continuing Care per Primary Care Trust can be found here.

If you want to know whether or not you’re entitled to NHS Continuing Care, or are worried about any of the issues raised in our exclusive investigation contact Dementia UK on 0845 257 940.

http://www.itv.com/news/2012-03-23/itv-news-report-finds-nhs-funding-dependent-on-postcode-not-need/

 

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