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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 July, 2004, 23:54 GMT 00:54 UK
NHS 'let down' over care claims
Image of a nursing home
There were more than 11,000 requests for cases to be reviewed
More support should have been given to NHS bodies to help them clear a backlog of care compensation claims, a health watchdog has said.

Local health bodies faced a flood of claims after the Health Service Ombudsman last year found many had wrongly judged who should pay for care.

Pledges to review all cases by December 2003, then by March 2004, were missed.

In her annual report, Ann Abraham said a lack of support from the Department of Health was to blame.

Continuing care or long-term care describes the care that people of all ages may need over an extended period of time because of a disability, accident or illness.

What the Department provided was clearly inadequate to the task
Ms Ann Abraham, Health Service Ombudsman

The Department of Health ordered a review last year after the ombudsman said some people needing long-term care, such as the elderly, disabled and people with chronic illnesses, had been unjustly denied financial support.

NHS organisations up and down the country were asked to review the care criteria used since 1996 to identify any patients in their area who may have been wrongly made to pay for their care in a home.

There were more than 11,700 requests for cases to be reviewed by strategic health authorities and primary care trusts across England.

Backlog

The original pledge to resolve the complaints by the end of the year was moved to March of this year because only 57% of the reviews had been completed.

Ms Abraham said the number of complaints she received this year had increased by 18% to 4,700 and most of these had been concerns about long-term care.

Ms Abrahams said: "Despite my warning last summer that there were likely to be large numbers of people affected by these issues and that the Department of Health would need to provide adequate support and guidance, it would appear they have not done so.

"Cases for retrospective review totalled over 11,000 and the deadline for completion of these has been moved twice.

"What the Department provided was clearly inadequate to the task," she said.

Health Minister Stephen Ladyman said: "At the time the March deadline was set, about 6,000 cases were outstanding.

"Continuing publicity, including the Ombudsman's own interest, subsequently generated around another 6,000 cases - so although 6,000 cases were reviewed by the end of March there remained another 6,000 cases to complete.

"We are seeking to complete these by the end of July and thereafter cases will be reviewed in two months from submission of all paperwork," he said.

On track

A Department of Health spokeswoman added: "We are alerting the NHS to the publication of this report, emphasising the key messages and encouraging its use both in service development and training for all staff."

She said they were on track to review the cases by the end of July.

She said the timings were not deadlines and that anyone putting forward a case after that date would have it reviewed.

"It's important that people who feel they should be recompensed are given the opportunity to approach their SHA and put in a claim and have their case reviewed," she said.

Andrea Lane, senior press officer for Help the Aged said: "At long last, compensation is starting to trickle through to the thousands of older people who have been wrongly charged for care.

"This process has taken far to long and the Ombudsman is correct to criticise the 'slow progress' and 'disappointing performance'.

"However, older people, their families and friends still face a snake pit of confusion when trying to establish who pays for what care and when. This has to be corrected. We need to simplify the system by providing free personal and nursing as is done in Scotland."




SEE ALSO:
Elderly wrongly charged for care
20 Feb 03  |  Health
Care funding system too complex
05 May 04  |  Health


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