Dementia sufferers unfairly charged for care

Posted on: 29 September 2010 by Allan McLachlan

People with Alzheimer's disease are being unfairly forced to pay for health care, according to Stephen Dorrell, the new chairman of the House of Commons health committee.

Dementia patient

Patients who would at one time have been treated without charge in NHS geriatric hospitals are now pushed into the means-tested social care system where they often have to pay for treatment.This is because the number of available beds in NHS hospitals has fallen by nearly 80% in the UK over the past 20 years.

"In effect there has been a change in the definition of what constitutes NHS care and that has happened without proper debate,"  House of Commons health committee chairman Stephen Dorrell told the BBC. "Because it has not been done in a planned way there is great unfairness in the system. We see examples of cost shunting and bureaucracy that cause individuals problems.I would not want to see a return to the old system of geriatric hospitals - care is much better now - but you have to question whether it is fair that this group of people are being charged in this way?"

While geriatric ward places have fallen, nursing home places have more than doubled over the same period.

NHS funding is available to people who are in care homes or living independently under a system called continuing care. But campaigners say that it is difficult to claim and qualify for.

Ruth Sutherland, interim chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society, said: "There are hundreds of thousands of people missing out on valuable financial help because they don't 'tick the right boxes'. People with dementia are some of the hardest hit by this deliberately tricky system.They are forced to pay for social care which adds huge financial burden to people already under emotional and physical strain. Faced with exhaustion, they may not have the strength to challenge being turned down."

"People with dementia are some of the hardest hit by this deliberately tricky system. They have complex physical health needs which should often be covered by the NHS but arguments over funding see them denied this care.

"Instead they are forced to pay for social care which adds huge financial burden to people already under emotional and physical strain. Faced with exhaustion, they may not have the strength to challenge being turned down."

According to the Department of Health, new guidelines for NHS Trusts have been introduced to help those who need it to access NHS funding.

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