Care home fee waiver ‘valid for mum’s stay’

Two organisations have come in for criticism from the son of a Morpeth pensioner, as he believes he should not have been billed for her stay in a care home.

And Paul Watson-Long is also unhappy that he was not given the opportunity to apply for a package of support where the NHS will pay the care costs of those ill or injured people who are eligible.

His mother, Jean Watson, became a temporary resident at Riverside House in Low Stanners in December 2010 as she was suffering from physical and mental issues.

Northumberland County Council and Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, which in partnership deliver adult social care to Northumberland residents, had him on their records as the agent for charging purposes as he holds a power of attorney for his mother.

Mr Watson-Long made a payment of about £1,500 to cover part of her stay at Riverside House, but he then came across NHS continuing healthcare when doing research to find out if there was any help available to families when loved ones with a range of issues go into care homes.

He claims that no assessment for this package was carried out and he believes she would have qualified for the support, so he has refused to pay the remaining bills (£1,796.65 in total) and asked the organisations to refund his payment.

An official complaint was made this summer and in their response, the council and health trust said Mrs Watson’s care manager at the time did not believe it was necessary to invoke the continuing healthcare checklist when she went into the care home as it was not felt that she had the required care needs.

Mr Watson-Long said: “In May 2010, my mother lost her partner of 22 years. She struggled to cope and two months later she fell and broke her right hip, which made her unable to walk unaided.

“After her time in hospital, she came to live with me and my partner, but in November she was re-admitted to hospital with an infection.

“During this time, her mental state kept getting worse and she expressed suicidal thoughts. As she was also suffering from osteoporosis, diabetes, arthritis and low blood pressure, we felt that it was best for her to go into a care home once she left hospital.

“Thankfully, she improved and was able to return to her bungalow in Kirkhill in August 2011, but when I found out about continuing healthcare, I couldn’t believe that a checklist assessment was not carried out at the time.

“Family members can still ask for this assessment to happen and if I had known that, I would have asked for one as I believe she met the criteria.

“I’m raising this issue because I want people in a similar position to know that this funding support is available and they can get a checklist assessment done even if health staff think their loved one is not eligible.

“I wrote to the Local Government Ombudsman, but I accept his response that it is beyond the deadline for a retrospective review of previously unassessed periods of care.”

Although Mrs Watson, 80, has been back to hospital a couple of times, she is still living in her bungalow today.

A spokeswoman for Northumberland County Council and Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust said: “We received a complaint from Mr Watson-Long relating to funding for his mother’s care, which we fully investigated.

“Mr Watson-Long also asked the Local Government Ombudsman to consider our response and the Ombudsman decided that there was no need for an investigation.

“The NHS pays care-home fees when a resident’s healthcare needs are so great that they are the primary reason for them needing support.

“We have an information sheet about continuing healthcare which we currently give to people we support with care.

“This includes a specific statement that people do – if they wish – have a right to complete an initial application for an assessment for this funding themselves.”