Scotland

Review into wrongly charged care costs announced

Generic image of a pensioner
Image caption The NHS is obliged to pay the "hotel bill" of some care home residents with severe health problems

A review into whether people are being denied funding for nursing care has been announced by the health secretary.

It follows a BBC Scotland investigation which discovered thousands of people were wrongly told they did not qualify for funding for nursing home fees.

Newly-released statistics show that the number of people being given state funding for all their care has fallen by 37% in four years.

The review will examine whether guidelines are being followed.

It will also consider whether an independent appeals process is required.

Earlier this month BBC Scotland revealed people may be spending thousands of pounds on nursing home care which should be paid for by the NHS.

Wrongly charged

If someone has severe health problems which require intense or complex nursing care then the NHS is obliged to pay for that care - called Continuing Health Care - even if it is delivered in a nursing home or in the person's own home.

While Scotland does provide personal care for free, people in care homes and nursing homes are still charged accommodation costs.

It is this "hotel bill" which the NHS is obliged to pay for people who need nursing care as well as social care.

The Scottish government has pledged to refund anyone who has been wrongly charged.

Opposition parties have called on the government to establish how many people may have been affected.

The latest figures show a reduction in the number of people receiving continuing care, from 2,006 people in March 2012 to 1,711 in March 2013.

Announcing the review, Health Secretary Alex Neil said: "I have been very clear that if people are entitled to receive NHS Continuing Health Care in Scotland they will get it.

"This census shows a reduction in the number of NHS Continuing Health Care patients. I am aware that many areas provide complex, joint packages of care to individuals with highly intensive needs at home, or in care home settings which would not be included in these figures.

"Even so, this reduction needs to be further investigated, as does the variation in provision between health boards."

'Worrying figures'

Ian Anderson, a former president of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, will lead the independent review panel which will report its findings and recommendations later this year.

He said: "It is absolutely vital that we treat all patients that need or might need NHS continuing care with compassion.

"The panel will take soundings from a wide range of care professionals, carers and the public in a bid to make the process easier for all individuals involved."

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jim Hume MSP said an independent inquiry was "the best way forward in providing open and honest answers about the true status of Continuing Health Care support in Scotland".

He added: "After talking down the scale of the problem with Continuing Health Care last week, these worrying figures seem to have prompted the health secretary to change his tune.

"This has become an all too common occurrence and will leave many concerned that the SNP government is spending too much time reacting to events instead of proactively managing them."

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