By Rosalind Hughes, founder of Just Caring Legal
Do you have a vulnerable relative who has recently gone into nursing care or do they require an assessment at home? Are they awaiting an NHS Continuing Healthcare assessment, review or appeal? It’s likely decisions on your care funding have been put on hold while the country dealt with the Covid-19 crisis. But no longer. As part of the “new normal” of living alongside Covid-19, things are finally moving again. Clinical commissioning groups must restart NHS CHC eligibility assessments as of today (September 1st).
As part of emergency Coronavirus legislation in March, the government suspended the requirement for NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups to carry out their NHS CHC processes. People leaving hospital during this period received emergency Covid-19 care funding to allow for timely discharge into care homes.
The government has now withdrawn that Covid-19 funding for new packages of care. In its place come new arrangements for hospital discharges, designed to put an end to delays in discharge. The government has introduced up to six weeks of NHS funded “recovery and support services” for those leaving hospital. Those who cannot return home will have their care funded for up to six weeks. During this time CCGs and local authorities will have to assess longer term care needs and how these will be funded.
A six week window to decide who pays for care
The guidance says CCGs and councils should now work more closely on assessments to decide who should pay for care. If this process is not complete within the six week timeframe, then either the CCG, local authority or both will have to pick up the tab until it is.
With this in mind, it’s vital to remember one thing. NHS CHC, unlike local authority care, is not means-tested. It is provided, like all NHS care, for free regardless of savings or assets. Don’t forget, financial assessments, which are used to determine eligibility for local authority funding, should not form any part of an NHS CHC eligibility assessment. Assessment is based on your health needs.
Tackling the backlog
The new guidance also says work must begin to tackle the backlog of NHS CHC assessments, reviews and appeals that have been shelved since March. Remember CCGs will be under pressure to meet the six week deadline for new packages of care. But you should still expect your relative’s review or appeal to be dealt with in a timely manner. The guidance gives suggestions on how CCGs can meet their extra obligations. They may have to recruit temporary additional staff, and use non-clinical staff more. Assessments may be contracted out to external organisations. There are likely to be more digital assessments.
The guidance also suggests more “efficient and effective referrals” via “appropriate use” of the NHS CHC checklist. Unfortunately, this may mean families now have to fight harder even to get this initial screening.
Time to pick up the phone
The guidance says any joint working by CCGs and local authorities “should be legally compliant and have regard to the national framework for NHS continuing healthcare and NHS-funded nursing care“. This is welcome news – the Coronavirus emergency legislation suspended the requirement for compliance. However, we fully expect the new regime to throw up just as many flawed processes as previously. And probably some new ones too, given the pressure CCGs will now be under.
So if you are one of the many families left in limbo by Covid-19, now is the time to pick up the phone. Perhaps your relative is having their Covid-19 funding withdrawn and you think they should now be receiving NHS CHC. Has your CCG refused to carry out a checklist, even though you have reason to believe your relative has a primary health need? Or has your pre-Covid appeal seemingly been brushed under the carpet?
Whatever stage you are at – whether waiting for a checklist or fighting an ineligibility decision, talk through your concerns with us. We will listen compassionately to your story. We will give practical advice in plain English. And if appropriate, we will fight your case all the way to the end. That is what we have done since day one here at Just Caring Legal – including during the Coronavirus crisis. So call or email us today for more information – and let’s get back to business as usual.