Continuing healthcare funding system failing patients, says PAC

19 Jan 18

Too many people's care is compromised because they do not know NHS continuing healthcare funding exists and are not helped to navigate “the hugely complicated process” involved, the public accounts committee has said.

In a report on continuing healthcare funding, MPs on the committee said people whose applications were assessed “spend too long waiting to find out if they are eligible for funding, and to receive the essential care that they need” and, in some cases, died while awaiting a decision.

Clinical commissioning groups were inconsistent in how they interpreted assessment criteria, leading to “unacceptable variation between areas in the number of people assessed as eligible to receive CHC funding”.

This ranged from 28 to 356 people per 50,000 population, the report said.

The committee chair, Labour’s Meg Hillier, said: “Conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis have devastating effects on sufferers and their loved ones.

“Help with meeting the costs of ongoing care can make a critical difference to their quality of life.

“It is therefore distressing to see the system intended to support such people fall short on so many fronts.”

Hillier said oversight of continuing healthcare funding had been poor and the government should ensure people with continuing healthcare needs were aware of the help available and received timely care.

The committee said NHS England should hold CCGs to account for delays in assessments, and find out the extent of further delays in providing care packages once funding had been agreed.

It was unclear to the PAC how CCGs could make the £855m efficiency savings required of them by 2020−21 without restricting access to care, either by increasing eligibility thresholds or by limiting care packages. 

“We are concerned that this ambition will result simply in giving CHC funding to fewer people, or giving people less care, or both,” the report said.

It called on NHS England to provide the committee by April with a costed breakdown of how these efficiency savings would be achieved, and assurance this would not be by means of restricting access to care for vulnerable patients.

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