- Paid nursing home care set to be made free during the coronavirus crisis
- 15,000 patients set to be discharged from hospital amid short-term care fees uncertainty
- Risk of a magnified postcode lottery for care fees as discretion left with individual councils
The Government’s emergency legislation to deal with the coronavirus crisis appears to “rip-up the care fees rule book”, according to a law firm that specialises in advising on the legal considerations around paying for care.
The move comes as NHS are being instructed to discharge 15,000 patients over the next week.
Steene Law Limited says that the emergency powers contained in the Coronavirus Bill allows the NHS to disregard the requirements to carry out NHS Continuing Health Care (CHC) assessments in determining who pays for their own care.
It would also remove the requirement on local authorities to charge for access to care at the height of the crisis, essentially making social care free for a period of time in order to free-up space in hospitals.
Dianne Steene, Director and Solicitor at Steene Law Limited, said: “This crisis has laid bare for all to see the damage done to our NHS by the failed system of paying for care in this country. However, it is also showing what can be done where there is the will to do so.
“Crucially, and with the proviso that the Bill could be amended as it goes through Parliament, it appears that people who are currently meeting the costs of their own care might be able to claim the cost of care from councils for at least a short time.
“While this is welcome, it remains at the discretion of individual councils whether or not they continue to carry out NHS CHC assessments and for how long, potentially magnifying the existing post-code lottery.”
She said that the most immediate concern comes in the form of the NHS plan to discharge 15,000 patients from hospitals across the country by Friday 27 March.
“We don’t know as things stand how quickly hospitals and Local Authorities are able to disregard the requirements to carry out CHC assessments, leaving anyone being discharged from hospital this week with conditions like dementia being at risk, for the time-being at least, of losing their home if they have assets of £23,250 or more,” added Dianne.
“Whilst the draft bill does contain provisions for the NHS to fund social care support after discharge from hospital, will a care home company wait until the government has set up the mechanism to pay?
“What happens, as so often is the case if the care company wants to charge one fee and the NHS only will reimburse at a lower rate?
“Who is going to resolve care fee disputes?
“This rushed through Bill does not provide answers”
Dianne said: “This is a rapidly developing situation that could lead to people falling through the gaps, being unable to access the care they need, potentially losing their homes as a consequence of rapid discharge or being treated differently from those living in a neighbouring council area.
“I urge families to seek advice immediately to ensure that their relatives can access the care they need during the crisis, without losing their homes.”