Wrongful charging compensation may be double the fund allocated

The bill for compensating people who have been wrongly charged for
long-term care could be double the amount the government has

Doubts have surfaced after an Oxfordshire-based legal firm revealed
that the £7.96m reimbursement fund given to Thames Valley
Strategic Health Authority will be insufficient to meet the number
of local claims.

The disclosure calls into question whether the final bill across
the UK will be significantly higher than the £300m the
Department of Health has allocated. The money is to cover the
thousands of expected claims from patients with long-term medical
conditions who paid for their care when they should have received
it free (news, page 8, 24 July).

Strategic health authorities and primary care trusts are reviewing
the issue following February’s decision by health service ombudsman
Ann Abraham that assessment criteria in four test cases were
incorrectly interpreted.

SHAs and PCTs are revising their criteria where necessary and
applying them to all cases over the past seven years.

Marlan Higgins, solicitor for Turpin, Miller & Higgins, said
the Thames Valley bill would be “much higher, probably double” the
reimbursement. Around 8,000 people in Oxfordshire had been affected
and the health authority’s criteria were still too restrictive, he
said. “Assessments are first looking at patients’ financial rather
than health needs – Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease sufferers
are still being excluded from continuing care.”

He said some people had sold their homes to pay for their care and
“will need to be put back into the position they were in before
that”, which could mean payments taking into account house price

The firm is advising “more than six clients a day, of which 95 per
cent are being taken forward” and has more than 100 cases to be
referred to the authority for compensation.

“If the authority doesn’t agree to settle we will lodge four or
five test cases with the High Court and link the others to them,”
Higgins added.

Thames Valley SHA refused to comment.

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