We’ve found a postcode lottery in how the NHS pays for the care of people with complex medical needs, such as care homes. Getting funding for ongoing care shouldn’t depend on where you live.
A friend of mine has been struggling to get the NHS to pay her dad’s care home fees. He has severe dementia and very complex medical needs, so it seems he should qualify for NHS continuing healthcare funding. This would mean all his care home costs would be funded, meaning as much as £50,000 a year is at stake.
The area he lives in is pretty low down the list for the number of people the NHS funds per 50,000. But what really shocked me is how much the number varies across England…
In Salford, 144.6 per 50,000 people get the funding, but it’s just 27.7 people per 50,000 in Oldham which is down the road. And in South Reading it’s just 11.4 people per 50,000.
These anomalies can’t easily be explained by differences in the population, as the figures are adjusted to reflect these.
Care funding problems
We last looked in detail at these numbers back in 2011 and we saw a pretty similar postcode lottery, although the overall number receiving funding has risen slightly. And in 2012 a new national framework was brought in to tackle the variation in funding across the country. Yet, the problem still exists.
Experts tell me that the numbers don’t tell the whole story either. For example, we don’t know how many people lose this funding when their needs are reviewed or how many people get part, rather than all, of their care funded by the NHS.
We’re also talking about the sickest, most vulnerable people here, and I know from experience that the last thing they and their families need is to spend precious time haggling over assessments and who should be getting what.
The Government needs to do more to make sure the system in England works fairly and consistently for patients whatever their postcode.
Do you have a relative who’s experienced the postcode lottery for NHS care funding first hand?