A recent case of three families having to fight tooth and nail to reclaim the care home costs for relatives suffering Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s will be greeted with incredulity. English law, as set out in a Court of Appeal ruling a decade ago, states that residential care costs of a chronically sick person should be paid by the state. It seems that this ruling is being regularly flouted by health trusts.
In one of these cases, that of Judith Roe, the trust argued (shamefully) that Alzheimer’s was a “social” not a medical condition. Mrs Roe’s family then faced a six-year battle to win justice, which they did – but not before Mrs Roe’s home had to be sold to cover care costs. Her family has now been fully reimbursed following the intervention of the Health Service Ombudsman. The other cases are similar.
It would be some consolation to know that these cases are an aberration, but they are not. A further 750 families are challenging similar rulings. It prompts the unfortunate suspicion that for some health trusts, bending the rules to save money is routine. It should not be left to the families of the elderly or the infirm to have to fight the NHS for justice.
Care for the elderly is expensive and is going to get more so because of our ageing population. It is time that the NHS organised its priorities to take account of that fact. If the money isn’t there, then Parliament must change the law… It is totally unacceptable for health trusts to wriggle out of their legal responsibilites towards the most vulnerable people in society.