Should the NHS pay for your old age care?

nurse with elderly patientOliver Berg/DPA/Press Association Images

A newspaper report has revealed that time is running out for people who want the NHS to pay for long term care for their sick and elderly relatives. Those who have had claims rejected and want to appeal need to do so before 30 September.

So what are the rules, and just how bad have things become?
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The report

A report in the Daily Telegraph dealt with the family of Robert Beaman, a retired postman, who went into a nursing home in 2009 and was told he would have to meet the costs of £6,000 a month out of his own pocket - apparently the value of his home and his small savings precluded him from receiving state help.

His family fought on, however, and argued that the severity of his medical needs - including Parkinsons, dementia and the fact he couldn't walk after hip surgery - meant his care was medical rather than social, and therefore that the NHS should pay under something called 'continuing healthcare'. After four years of fighting the family won their case, and had £80,000 in care costs refunded.
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The deadline that this case serves to highlight is that those who put in a claim before 30 September will have fees refunded all the way back to April 2004. If you miss this deadline, it shifts considerably to April 2011.

NHS responsibility

Michelle Mitchell, the director-general of Age UK, told the newspaper: "The NHS needs to do more to make people aware of continuing healthcare, particularly for those families that may have been eligible in the past and are running out of time to make a claim."

In reality, you need to be very severely ill in order to qualify for NHS funding for care. Each case is assessed on its own merits, and there are several assessments to determine the nature of the illness, its complexity and unpredictability.

Very few people apply for and receive the funding, but if you qualify then all your fees are paid for - regardless of your financial situation - which will make a dramatic difference to many families with savings or homes who receive nothing under the broader rules for funding of social care of older people.

Social care

Social care payments are only available to those with assets of less than £23,500 - which means in many cases, homes have to be sold and savings almost entirely eroded before they qualify for help with care. Alternatively families have to give up work for a loved one.
It is a personal crisis for each individual affected, and with growing number of older people needing help, it's a looming national crisis.

A study by LV= found that the annual cost of long term care in UK expected to rise from £26,000 a year to £33,000 per person by 2025. This puts the total cost of long term care for the elderly in the UK at £37.9 billion a year by 2025, compared to £21.8 billion now.

The LV= figures showed that longer life expectancy means a 37% increase in the number of people needing long term care in UK by 2025, and that almost one in five (17%) Brits are expecting to fund long term care for an elderly relative.

If you think your relative should qualify for NHS care, then you will need to lodge a complaint with your local Primary Care Trust - ideally before September this year.

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