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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 February 2006, 06:59 GMT
NHS care costs rules 'unlawful'
Elderly man with helper
Experts said the rules over long-term nursing care were unlawful
Thousands of people in Wales could be wrongly paying for their long-term health care, it is claimed.

Experts in care law have told BBC Wales that the criteria used to decide who has free NHS care are unlawful.

A survey by the programme Week In Week Out found most questioned thought the current funding system was unfair.

The Welsh Assembly Government said it planned training for decision-makers and an improved appeals system with a role for community health councils.

While the Scottish Parliament has introduced free personal care on top of free nursing, there is no similar scheme in Wales.

The BBC investigation found that private residential and nursing homes can amount to 20,000 a year for those who are refused free long-term NHS care.

I think the reason we are not seeing a huge outcry is that this is happening to people at a very difficult time in their lives
Solicitor Luke Clements

Catherine McDougall, from Penarth, has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, and her family said she was a risk to herself and others.

Her son, Iain, said he was shocked when his mother, a former nurse who often cared for elderly people, was denied free NHS care.

He said: "My mum took care of elderly people in exactly the state that she is in now. She would be absolutely furious, she would be wanting to rip someone's head off, quite frankly.

'Hour of need'

"I'm talking about all people of that generation. They have been conned.

"They were told, at the early conception of this National Health Service, that if they contributed to it for their working life, they would be taken care of in their hour of need and that is not happening."

Luke Clements, a solicitor and lecturer in community care law at Cardiff Law School, said that he believed the guidelines and criteria used to judge whether someone is entitled to free care are unlawful.

He said: "I think it's an enormous con job. The law hasn't changed since 1946. Parliament hasn't changed anything.

"No minister has stood up and said 'we don't do this any more', so as a lawyer, I would say this is a con job. I think it's an outrage.

"I think the reason we are not seeing a huge outcry is that this is happening to people at a very difficult time in their lives."

Affordability

The BBC Wales survey, carried out by Beaufort Research, found that of those with experience of elderly care, more than half thought the way elderly care is funded was either extremely or very unfair. But 7% thought it was very or extremely fair.

Of those who say that people who could afford it should contribute towards their care, 70% said the value of a person's home should not be taken into account when assessing affordability.

Welsh Health Minister Brian Gibbons told the programme that the policy of making personal care free at the point of need had proved more expensive in Scotland than planned.

Week In Week Out is screened at 2235 on BBC1 Wales




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Health expert explains why she supports free care



SEE ALSO:
Inquiry into free personal care
09 Dec 05 |  Scotland
Warning over costs of free care
21 Mar 05 |  Scotland
City home care charges scrapped
15 Sep 05 |  Derbyshire


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