By Rosalind Hughes, founder of Just Caring Legal
Has your vulnerable relative been forced to “top up” their NHS Continuing Healthcare funding with additional fees? If so, they may well be due a sizeable refund. A recent investigation by the Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) has ruled that many such payments are illegal under consumer protection law and should be repaid.
NHS CHC “top ups” are illegal
The CMA has forced one care home provider, Care UK, to pay back more than £1 million in refunds to NHS-funded residents at their “premium” care homes. The action is part of a wider investigation into such practices in the care sector.
The company broke consumer protection law by charging an unfair additional fee for its premium homes: the practice is unfair and contravenes NHS rules, the CMA said. Under these rules, residents funded through NHS CHC must not have to pay towards their essential care.
Care UK’s “premium” homes are so called because they offer enhanced features such as additional communal facilities beyond those found in its “standard” homes. Residents in receipt of NHS CHC were paying in most cases more than £300 a week extra to receive care there. The CMA’s Executive Director of Enforcement Michael Grenfell said, “Older people receiving Continuing Healthcare funding are some of the most vulnerable in our society and should not be expected to pay extra fees towards their essential care.”
Charging NHS CHC “top up” fees, though illegal, is widespread
This is a crucially important ruling. Here at Just Caring Legal we are well aware of these sharp practices. In reality, most residents in receipt of NHS CHC have a very high level of care requirements. They are often bedbound and immobile. They can have extreme psychological needs. Most are unable to make use of communal “extras”, like coffee bars, gyms or cinema rooms.
What is more, we have found that many Clinical Commissioning Groups, which manage NHS CHC, place arbitrary caps on funding. In many cases, the amount they are willing to pay doesn’t cover the costs of complex care. Hence the requirement for additional fees to top up NHS CHC.
Always query requests for extra payments
If your relative is NHS CHC funded and their care home demands additional fees, always query it. Don’t agree to anything until you are clear. What exactly is this extra funding paying for? Does it clearly cover aspects of care that are not part of your relative’s day to day needs? Is your relative in a position to make use of these extras? If the care home cannot answer these questions to your satisfaction, they should not be asking for this money. And doing so could amount to financial abuse, a significant safeguarding issue in care homes.
Have you or your relative already agreed to pay additional fees?
If so, get in touch. We are specialists in NHS CHC refunds and can advise you on whether these additional fees are likely to be illegal. We will also consider whether your relative’s circumstances might have made them vulnerable to the risk of abuse and acting against their own interests. So call us today. With our expertise in this area, we can maximise your chances of getting this hard-earned money back as quickly as possible.