The financial assistance provided by NHS Continuing Healthcare eases the financial burden for many, but applying for funding can be a difficult process to navigate for those who may be eligible.
According to leading South East law firm Furley Page, thousands could be missing out on access to NHS Continuing Healthcare – a funding package to provide free healthcare for people with a primary health need – because the assessment process to determine eligibility is often extremely lengthy and people are not advised fully about it by the appropriate authority.
“A recent report by former MP Sally Keeble has exposed wide variations in the provision of NHS Continuing Healthcare for people with dementia,” says solicitor Nicola August, a partner and head of Furley Page’s Elderly and Vulnerable Client Team.
“The report surveyed 162 Clinical Commissioning Groups and, rather worryingly, revealed that the training of assessors was inconsistent, with several CCGs admitting that they didn’t provide any training at all.
“We’ve had many requests for help from families who have been refused funding at the first assessment and often this is due to the fact that the person’s needs have not been fully explored,” adds Nicola, who has years of experience in dealing with delicate matters surrounding elderly or vulnerable clients.
“People living with dementia may require round-the-clock care which can be financially and emotionally draining for their families. While many are getting the help they need, thousands of relatives and carers are still battling to secure funding towards crippling care bills because the needs of their loved ones are not being fully considered.”
So how does someone qualify for NHS Continuing Healthcare? And how can they ensure that they don’t miss out on funding that they are entitled to?
“First it’s important to seek proper advice and support to guide you through what can be a very daunting and complex assessment process,” says Nicola. “Sometimes families are under the false impression that someone with dementia will automatically qualify for NHS Continuing Healthcare – but while they may certainly be found eligible, it’s important to remember that it’s the nature, complexity, unpredictability and intensity of a person’s needs which are paramount.”
Initially an assessment will take place to ascertain the level of care needs of the person. Following that assessment, an NHS Continuing Healthcare checklist may be completed and, if appropriate, an assessment to determine eligibility for NHS Continuing Healthcare will be undertaken.
The following 12 areas are considered: behaviour, cognition, psychological and emotional needs, communication, mobility, nutrition, skin tissue viability, breathing, continence, altered states of consciousness, drug therapy and medication, and any other significant needs.
“The assessment meeting is lengthy and the family should be involved fully,” says Nicola. “A legal representative can also be present and we have a wealth of experience in the team of attending such meetings and making appropriate representations before the matter is sent to Panel for a decision.
“If the person’s health care needs improve then the NHS Continuing Healthcare package may be withdrawn,” adds Nicola. “However, even if the need is being successfully managed, the person may still qualify for NHS support because the need still exists. Only where management has permanently reduced a health care need will eligibility for help be affected.”
If someone is found eligible for this type of funding, it can be provided in any setting, for example in a residential care or nursing home or in a person’s own home.
“As Sally Keeble’s report has shown, the way people are assessed for NHS Continuing Healthcare clearly needs to be reviewed. In the meantime, if you feel a loved one may qualify for this funding, seek professional advice as soon as possible.”
Furley Page’s specialised Elderly and Vulnerable Client Team is highly experienced at taking forward claims for NHS Continuing Healthcare and appealing decisions where someone has been found ineligible to receive this funding. The team can also assist in advising on the likelihood of a successful claim and navigating the intricacies of the process involved in securing funding.
For more information and advice, contact Nicola August on 01227 763939.
Notes to editors:
Nicola August, the only Approved Panel Deputy of the Court of Protection in East Kent and one of just three in the county, heads the Vulnerable Client team. Nicola is also one of a growing network of volunteer Dementia Friends Champions, part of the country’s biggest ever initiative, led by the Alzheimer’s Society, to change the way people think about dementia. All of Furley Page’s Elderly and Vulnerable Client Team are members of Solicitors for the Elderly, an independent, national organization of lawyers providing specialist legal advice for older and vulnerable people.
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