Behind the headlines

Thousands of people could receive care in their own homes
following a landmark ruling. Alzheimer’s sufferer Malcolm Pointon,
who is severely disabled and looked after by his wife, was denied
free NHS care at home although offered it at a nursing home or

Last November the health service ombudsman upheld a complaint from
Pointon who is now receiving care at home funded by the NHSto the
tune of £1,000 a week paid for by South Cambridgeshire Primary
Care Trust.

Julia Ross, social services director, London Borough of
Barking and Dagenham

“It seems nonsensical on the face of it that free at the point of
entry NHS care should be dependent on where you are, so this
judgement must be right. However, I hope we are not going to find
this is a new version of the medical and social baths
merry-go-round. As the management of chronic disease in the
community becomes more prevalent, we’ll no doubt see many more of
these sorts of dilemmas.”

Bill Badham, development officer, National Youth

“The ombudsman’s decision in favour of the Pointons is a landmark
ruling with huge repercussions. It is a victory for self-advocacy
and the empowerment of carers and those they care for. It is also a
further step toward the vital joining-up of health and social care
planning, commissioning and budgets in the best interests of the
community served by local authorities and primary care trusts. And
it shows again that community care costs. Additional government
money must now underpin the high principle of this ruling.”

Martin Green, chief executive,Counsel and

“I am pleased the ombudsman has decided that people who suffer from
dementia can receive free NHS care. The scandal is that Mr Pointon
had to go through a long and protracted process to justify his care
needs and to establish his rights. In the future we will see an
increasing need for services that support people with dementia and
the government must start planning immediately to ensure that
services are available, accessible and above all flexible. This
means that we not only need clear criteria about access to
services, but we also need to be flexible about where they are

David Comley, director of social work services at Glasgow
“This ruling would be difficult to parallel in Scotland as
the policy and legislation is now quite different. In July 2002
free personal care was introduced for people aged 65 years and over
both in their own homes and care homes. Free nursing care was also
introduced for care home residents of all ages. Thus for those in
Scotland over the age of 65 living at home, nursing care is free,
through the district nursing services. “

Felicity Collier, chief executive, Baaf Adoption and

“Society relies on families carrying the burden of caring round the
clock for confused and vulnerable people, to avoid the pain of the
deterioration which so often follows hospital admission. The cost
to the carers’ quality of life and own health is huge. This ruling
could even make economic sense – a parallel is foster care for
children. What went wrong in that case was the failure to transfer
the funding saved from residential provision. The NHS should learn
from this.”

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