DH guilty of maladministration, parliamentary watchdog finds

The parliamentary watchdog today found the Department of Health guilty of maladministration for the way it advised the NHS on how to compensate people wrongly denied continuing care.

In a report today, Ann Abraham, the parliamentary and health service ombudsman, said the DH’s guidance to NHS bodies did not follow government protocols on compensation, was unclear and caused a postcode lottery in levels of recompense.

Abraham said the DH advised strategic health authorities and primary care trusts to pay back the costs the NHS would have incurred had continuing care been correctly granted plus interest pegged at the level of inflation.

But she said Whitehall-wide guidance said individuals should also be compensated for reasonable costs they incurred as a result of wrongful decisions by public bodies, and added that pegging interest payments to inflation was insufficient.

She also said the guidance failed to mention that PCTs had the power to also compensate people for distress caused by the decision to deny them continuing care, which lead to an inconsistent approach between trusts.

However, she said that while many people could have been significantly short-changed as a result, in practice this was not the case. For instance, she said some people had been allowed to retain benefits payments they would have been ineligible for had they been granted continuing care in the first place.

She recommended the DH issue national guidance on continuing care redress which aims to “return individuals to the position they would have been in” had they not been denied funding, and reminds PCTs they can compensate people for distress.

The DH today accepted the recommendation and today promised to issue new guidance.

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