By Rosalind Hughes, founder, Just Caring Legal
In March 2020 the Government introduced Covid-19 emergency funding to enable people to leave hospital as quickly as possible. The idea was to provide them with ongoing care until their local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) was in a position to do a full care needs assessment. In September came new arrangements for hospital discharges. Those who cannot return home receive Covid discharge funding for up to six weeks. During this time their CCG and local authority must assess their longer term care needs and who should fund these. But we are hearing of many cases where people have had their Covid discharge funding withdrawn without first undergoing a full care needs assessment.
Many vulnerable people are failing to receive adequate care
In a perfect storm of rushed decision-making and squeezed resources, vulnerable people are falling through the cracks. Many are failing to have adequate care put in place. Let me be clear. This should not be happening. Nor should they have to submit to a financial assessment – a means test – before a full care needs assessment has taken place.
Where those leaving hospital appear to have ongoing needs, their CCG should assess whether they are eligible for NHS Continuing Healthcare. They may have a primary health need that necessitates high levels of care. That could be because of the effects of Covid-19 itself, or a stroke, Parkinson’s, or severe dementia. NHS Continuing Healthcare should cover the costs of all the person’s care needs in full. It is not dependent on financial means but is available to all.
So what should happen before Covid discharge funding is withdrawn?
First, a health or social care professional should carry out the checklist stage of the NHS Continuing Healthcare assessment. This decides whether the person should receive a full assessment of their care needs by a multi-disciplinary team (the DST stage). It is only if your relative is ineligible for NHS Continuing Healthcare that they should pass over to the Local Authority for a social care assessment. At this stage they may have to undergo a financial assessment. If they have assets, savings or capital over £23,250, they will have to fund their own care.
So if your relative is having their Covid discharge funding withdrawn, and has not yet received an NHS Continuing Healthcare checklist assessment, query this. The CCG may tell you that they have already completed a checklist and found them ineligible. However, no part of an NHS Continuing Healthcare assessment should happen behind closed doors. Nor should it be without the informed consent of the individual themselves if they have capacity, or those who look after their best interests if not.
If you find it impossible to get a clear answer, don’t feel you are going crazy.
The care funding system, after years of underfunding and fudged decisions, has become opaque and mystifying. Here at Just Caring Legal, we hear people’s frustration, desperation and distress over the phone every day. They may just need a reality check on their situation. Someone to assess whether the CCG has followed the National Framework for NHS CHC correctly and taken all the relevant evidence into account. Or someone to represent them in an eligibility or review meeting. Whatever your situation, we promise to listen with compassion and care and give you straight answers in plain English. It might feel like a while since you’ve had someone do that. So feel free to call or email us and we will get back to you for a free, honest assessment of your case.