William Eichler 17 January 2018

Funding system for continuing healthcare needs ‘failing’ patients

The system for funding health and care services is overly ‘complex’ and is ‘failing’ people with continuing healthcare needs, such as Alzheimer's and multiple sclerosis, MPs say.

A new report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) warns that many people have their care compromised because no one makes them aware of the funding available or helps them to navigate the funding system.

Published today, the report found people that have their healthcare needs assessed spend too long waiting to find out if they are eligible for funding.

About one-third of assessments in 2015–16 took longer than 28 days, the committee found. In some cases this delay has resulted in death.

The PAC report also said there was ‘unacceptable’ variation between areas in the number of people assessed as eligible to receive NHS continuing healthcare (CHC) funding.

This ranged from 28 to 356 people per 50,000 members of the population in 2015–16. According to the committee, this is caused partly by clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) interpreting the assessment criteria inconsistently.

NHS England also wants CCGs to make £855m of efficiency savings in CHC and NHS-funded nursing care spending by 2020–21.

However, the PAC report warns this will put patient safety at risk because either the threshold of those assessed as eligible will have to be increased or the care packages available will have to be limited.

The committee chair, Meg Hillier, described the situation as ‘distressing’.

‘Oversight of CHC funding has been poor and NHS England’s demand that clinical commissioning groups make big efficiency savings will only add to the financial pressures on the frontline,’ said Ms Hillier.

‘Government must step in now to ensure people with continuing healthcare needs are aware of the help available and that those eligible for funding receive essential care in a timely and consistent manner.’

Responding to the PAC report, Janet Morrison, chief executive of Independent Age, warned the current funding problems are 'utterly unacceptable'.

'NHS Continuing Healthcare can be a vital care package for many older people with a high level of care needs,' she said.

'It is utterly unacceptable that some people who are eligible for the package of care either don’t know about it, find it too complicated to access, or are waiting too long for a decision, in which time their health may have significantly worsened.

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