Campaigners have welcomed a landmark ruling by the health service
ombudsman that could pave the way for dementia sufferers to receive
free care in their own homes.
Barbara Pointon spent four years battling with the health service
for free NHS care at home for her husband Malcolm, who was
diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 1991, aged 51, and is now severely
disabled and needs a high-level of health care.
Pointon made an official complaint, backed up by expert opinion, to
the former Cambridgeshire Health Authority and South Cambridgeshire
Primary Care Trust. But the PCT said that, although her husband
qualified for 100 per cent free NHS care, he could only receive
that in a hospital or nursing home.
However, in November last year, health ombudsman Ann Abraham upheld
the complaint. The Pointons now receive 100 per cent NHS-funded
care at home, worth £1,000 a week and paid for by the PCT via
social services direct payments.
Last February, Abraham also upheld complaints from relatives about
four people who were incorrectly made to pay for their own
long-term care in nursing homes. The ombudsman went on to receive a
record number of complaints against health authorities that had
refused to fund continuing care in nursing homes.
The new ruling could affect thousands more people with continuing
care needs living in their own homes.
According to Pointon, the ombudsman’s report, which has not yet
been published, concludes that her husband was assessed against the
wrong criteria. Pointon complained that assessments were biased
towards physical needs and took no account of psychological needs
such as her husband’s “unpredictability, delusions, lack of spatial
awareness, communication difficulties and fearfulness”.
The report also “slams” requirements which make it impossible to
receive NHS-funded care in the patient’s own home, Pointon
The Alzheimer’s Society said the “ground-breaking” ruling should
pave the way for more dementia sufferers to receive free NHS care
at home. A spokesperson for Age Concern added: “For so long,
families have had little or no choice but to agree to their loved
ones being moved into care to get the funding and support they
“The Pointons’ victory is a real step forward, offering hope of
better recognition of mental health needs for many more.”
The Department of Health said access to free continuing care should
be decided locally by PCTs on a case by case basis and not just on
the basis of condition type. It has extended until 31 March the
deadline for strategic health authorities to assess how many people
were wrongly denied free continuing care between 1996 and 2002.