Panorama: Fighting for Care

Star rating: 5/5.

BBC 1, 18 July.

“Not ill enough,” replied the NHS to Peter Bennett’s application for NHS funding for the care of his wife Anne, in the last stages of Alzheimer’s. Seeing them both, many viewers may have been baffled, but not those familiar with the world of continuing care and the often nebulous distinction between health and social care, writes Christine Rowley.

Andy Davies’s report focused on three carers fighting for NHS funding to enable them to care at home for their spouses, all with advanced dementia. It was shown in the week that the ombudsman criticised the lengthy delays in reviewing claims of wrongly denied funding. About 800 refusals have been overturned and 5,000 are still to be investigated, so the three trusts named here are plainly not the only culprits.

“It is about money,” admitted health minister, Stephen Ladyman. But it was also about lack of information, delays, communication failures, confusing guidelines and professional disagreements. Nobody involved the experts – the carers themselves. Whatever the funding issues, should anyone have to wait, as Freda Douthwaite did, to be told of a decision that had been taken three weeks before?

A moving, harrowing picture of the frustrations, distress and exhaustion facing many carers, this was a film about lifetimes of love and commitment.

We were left with the question of whether we, as a society, are prepared to pay to make this system work properly.

Perhaps the story of Malcolm Pointer, who had lost the ability to say every word save “home”, could help us decide.

Christine Rowley is a former carer.

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