Staffordshire residents hit NHS with 1,191 claims for wrongly charged OAP care
NEARLY 1,200 patients and their loved-ones are fighting for compensation after claiming they were wrongly charged for care in Staffordshire.
They have lodged appeals with the county's NHS after being forced to pay for support which they now say should have been free.
Now experts fear health bodies will be hit by multi-million pound bills to settle the claims – and may have to cut services with no cash support coming from the Government.
In England, patients receiving care should not be charged if the help is classed as NHS care. But if it is classed as social care then it is means-tested to see how much a person can afford to pay.
Many pensioners were forced to plunder their life-savings or even sell their homes to meet the bills after complex criteria were used to rule their cases did not represent NHS care.
But following nationwide concerns that some people had been wrongly assessed over the past eight years, the Government is allowing retrospective appeals.
Staffordshire's three primary care trusts (PCTs) are currently dealing with 1,191 claims – with 298 in Stoke-on-Trent and 226 from Newcastle and the Staffordshire Moorlands.
The remaining 667 appeals are from people in central and south Staffordshire, which includes Stone and Stafford.
The claims relate to care received between April 1, 2004, and March 31, 2011.
The deadline for lodging appeals for that period has now passed but those with claims from April 1, 2011 and March 31 this year have until March to submit them.
Graham Urwin, joint chief executive of Staffordshire's three PCTs, said: "The NHS has been overwhelmed by the number of appeals it has received.
"We have put no deadline on resolving them as it is more important to do them right as some have legal overtones.
"The claims are against individual PCTs but if we spend money on historical community health care we will have less money for something else.
"We cannot put a figure on the total sums involved because a number of the appeals will not be successful yet others will have a high value.
"The costs will also be a contingent liability against the incoming CCGs."
Pensioners' leaders today said the number of appeals proved their arguments that people were paying for services which should have been free.
John Davis, chairman of North Staffordshire Pensioners' Convention, said: "With the end stages of dementia in particular it is obvious that their needs are for health and not social care.
"Even if they are stopped from using the toilet or feeding themselves because of their illnesses that support must be health-related and so should have been free."
The Sentinel reported last week how one resident living at Park Hall care home, in Bentilee, is now being charged £545 per week for her social care.
Newcastle Mayor David Becket, who is a member of the borough council's health scrutiny committee, added: "My mother-in-law has been through this and in some areas, the differentiation between what is care and what is nursing support is a bit mixed. It is very much a grey area."
All the cases will be assessed by continuing care experts.