By Rosalind Hughes, founder, Just Caring Legal
Regular readers of this blog may have followed the journey of Rear Admiral Philip Matthias and his campaign to get NHS Continuing Healthcare justice for all. Recently, support for his vital cause has flooded in from a host of high-profile supporters including Fiona Phillips and Dame Esther Rantzen.
The campaign reached a key milestone recently when it submitted a staggering 649 pages of legal evidence to the High Court and the pressure is on again to raise another £10,000 for legal fees to push through to the next stage. This application for Judicial Review seeks to prove through “overwhelming evidence” that the CHC system is dysfunctional and unlawful. And that it wrongly denies many thousands of very ill and vulnerable people the healthcare funding they are entitled to.
What is NHS Continuing Healthcare?
NHS Continuing Healthcare is a package of care arranged and fully funded by the NHS. It is for individuals who have a “primary health need” arising from disability, accident or illness. If you are eligible for NHS Continuing Healthcare, the package of care must meet all the assessed needs set out in your care and support plan.
Why is this fight for NHS Continuing Healthcare justice so vital?
Like so many families, Rear Admiral Matthias faced the fight of his life to get NHS Continuing Healthcare funding for his late mother. Like so many who take on the battle for NHS CHC funding, he fought for years. He sent over one hundred letters and emails, sat through interminable meetings and devoted all his mental energy to it. As he recounts on his Crowdjustice website page, “The CCG did everything possible to avoid making an eligibility decision. This included ignoring and grossly distorting the evidence contained in her care records.” It is a very common story. But he never gave up. Eventually Mr Mathias received NHS CHC justice in the form of a refund of £200,000 in care fees.
What does the campaign’s submission to the High Court show?
It shows that the decision process by which the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) decides eligibility is unlawful. It routinely fails to identify people with a genuine primary health need, who should receive CHC funding. The submission further highlights how:
Since 2015, CCGs have unlawfully denied NHS Continuing Healthcare funding to more than 50,000 people. The total figure they owe could run into several billion pounds
Despite an ageing population, overall CHC eligibility numbers have significantly reduced since 2015. This is contrary to false claims by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) that eligibility numbers have increased
There is a postcode lottery for NHS CHC. This is due to huge and unexplained variations in CCG’s award rates across the country. The government and NHS England agreed to address this after damning criticism from the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee in 2018. They have failed to do so
A significant proportion of vital CHC assessments are conducted by staff with insufficient training or specialist medical knowledge
Please support this vital campaign if you can
The campaign’s latest blog contains a harrowing account highlighting just how essential this campaign is. Warning: it is not an easy read. But I would urge you not to look away. At Just Caring Legal, we listen daily to such tales of despair and desperation. We hear genuine heartbreak as families realise just how little their vulnerable relative’s wellbeing matters to those holding the purse strings. Many of these families have already donated to the campaign – the total stands at more than £50,000. That in itself is an amazing feat. But a legal challenge of this magnitude and complexity, which could potentially end up in the Supreme Court, will be costly. As a passionate supporter of this campaign, therefore, I urge you to consider giving whatever you can. And let’s continue the fight for NHS Continuing Healthcare justice for all.