By Rosalind Hughes, founder of Just Caring Legal
14th April 2020
Before the Coronavirus crisis, hospital discharge could be a drawn out process. It would include talking to health and care professionals about your family member’s ongoing health and social care needs. If they were unable to return home, even with domiciliary care, they would be able to express a preference about a residential or nursing home and the family would make decisions on important issues such as location.
How has hospital discharge changed due to the Coronavirus crisis?
New legislation to help alleviate the emergency pressures on the NHS means discharge will now happen much faster – usually within hours. Your family member will not be able to stay in hospital until you have decided on the best place for them. Instead, hospital staff will discharge them as soon as they are medically fit to a safe and appropriate place. It has been suggested in all but about 95% of cases this is likely to be home, with support where necessary. But where that’s impossible or inappropriate, the discharge team will locate a suitable care home from a central bed tracker.
How will we ensure our family member gets a suitable care package?
Your family member will be contacted shortly after discharge (either the same or the following day) from health and/or social care professionals who will put a suitable longer-term care package in place. It is important to prepare for this so you can ensure their preferences are expressed. This will help ensure the support meets their needs and wishes as far as possible.
Who will pay for care?
Crucially, the Coronavirus emergency legislation has suspended the duty on the NHS to carry out assessments for NHS Continuing Healthcare. Instead, the NHS should fund their care package (as long as it was put in place after March 19th 2020) for the duration of the Coronavirus emergency period. We don’t know how long that will be. They may need to start paying for their care once the emergency period is over, unless they qualify for NHS CHC or local authority funding.
What should we do in the meantime?
There are many untested areas of the emergency legislation. Some Clinical Commissioning Groups may carry on doing NHS CHC assessments if they have the capacity. It is still essential to request an assessment immediately if you think your family member may qualify. This is because there is likely to be a backlog of assessments once the emergency period is over. If your family member has to start paying for care, it is important to ensure any NHS CHC funding can be backdated so you get this money back.
There is no time like the present
It makes sense to start preparing your arguments for the NHS CHC assessment process as soon as possible. As far as we are concerned here at Just Caring Legal, it’s business as usual. We are trying to help families to navigate the new process first and foremost so it’s worth a try to talk to us about doing it now. In some areas of the country, NHS and Local Authority staff are still at hand to deal with these cases. To make sure your submissions are as comprehensive and robustly worded as they can be, feel free to contact Just Caring Legal for more detailed guidance. We are very much open for business and here if you need us, so contact us by telephone or email.