‘We’ll refund unfair care costs for severely ill’

Alex Neil urged patients or families to contact him. Picture: Robert Perry
Alex Neil urged patients or families to contact him. Picture: Robert Perry
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SCOTTISH patients wrongly charged for nursing care will get their money back, health secretary Alex Neil has said.

It emerged yesterday that the number of Scots receiving funding for nursing care costs had dropped by 26 per cent in four years, at a time when the figure would have expected to rise due to the ageing population.

It is believed many families could have wrongly been charged for the care, running into thousands of pounds, which should have been free to those with severe health needs.

In response Mr Neil said people would be “appropriately reimbursed” if they were having to pay for care which they should have been getting free on the NHS.

He urged those who felt they had been wrongly turned down for a continuing healthcare package to contact him and he would ensure the situation was “properly investigated”.

If a patient has severe health problems which require intense or complex nursing care – such as a severe stroke or motor neurone disease – the NHS is obliged to pay for that care, whether it is delivered in a nursing home or in the person’s own home.

Personal care is free in Scotland, but people in care homes and nursing homes are still liable for the costs of accommodation.

However, this “hotel bill” should be covered by the NHS for people who need nursing care as well as social care as part of a “continuing healthcare” package.

Yesterday, one family spoke of their surprise when an application for such funding was declined.

Robert Fyans said an application for continuing healthcare for his mother, who was left severely brain-damaged after a stroke, had been turned down, leaving the family “flabbergasted”. They were forced to sell his mother’s flat to pay her care home costs.

David Short, a lawyer with Balfour and Manson, said that “an awful lot of people out there have wrongly been charged and they’re being fobbed off”.

Mr Neil urged people with a “genuine grievance” to first contact the chief executive of their NHS board and then him if they were still unhappy with the outcome.

“The last thing I want to do as the health secretary is see people who are so seriously ill being denied the payment or the care they are entitled to,” he said.

“Where there is evidence, we will tackle that situation.”

Mr Neil added: “If there is anyone, or anyone’s carer or family, who feels they should have been receiving this payment and either haven’t been told about it or aren’t receiving it, please let us know because we will look at the case, case by case.”

However he said he believed only a small number of people would have been missing out.

Labour’s health spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: “People are clearly finding that the system is working against them; it’s not fair and it is less than transparent. It would appear that for many vulnerable people, who require continuing medical care, the cost is being shunted from the NHS on to local government or directly on to families.”

Lib Dem health spokesman Jim Hume called on ministers to “provide immediate clarity on continuing healthcare funding for people with intensive or complex nursing care needs”.