Campaigners and minister clash over continuing care compensation

Fewer than one in five people who complained that they were wrongly
charged for continuing care are to be compensated for their loss,
it was revealed last week.

Strategic health authorities were ordered to review whether they
had applied their eligibility rules correctly after a critical
report by the health service ombudsman two years ago.

In a progress report to the House of Commons last week, community
care minister Stephen Ladyman said that compensation had been
granted in “almost 20 per cent of cases”.

Ladyman criticised some SHAs for “unsatisfactory” delays, adding
that in some cases delays were caused by the claimants

Andrew Chidgey, campaigns officer for the Alzheimer’s Society, said
it was “outrageous” for the minister to blame the individuals.
“Some people are finding that review panels don’t have half the
documents they need and are taking decisions on inadequate
evidence. We are also not sure that people’s mental health needs
are being taken into account.”

Liberal Democrat MP Paul Burstow said the review process was
“fatally flawed” as it considered only whether SHAs had properly
applied their own eligibility rules, which were themselves

The Department of Health later admitted that Ladyman meant 17.9 per
cent of the 10,023 cases that were fully investigated by the end of
July. A further 1,600 cases remain outstanding despite the April

There is also wide variation between SHAs, with the number of cases
completed ranging from 100 per cent in Avon, Gloucestershire and
Wiltshire to 38 per cent in Surrey and Sussex.

The proportion of cases in which compensation was paid ranged from
60 per cent in south east London to 5 per cent in Dorset and

The government has meanwhile defended its decision not to issue
national eligibility criteria, in response to a report on
palliative care from the House of Commons health select

The response states that the Coughlan ruling, which prompted the
review of continuing care cases, failed to give a clear distinction
between health and social care.

“Without this clear distinction it is not possible, or appropriate,
to issue guidance detailing a position which could not be supported
in law,” it argues.

It adds that making national criteria “too straightforward” ran the
risk of them being “too simplistic” to account for factors
affecting different patients.

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