Care costs in Wales 'forcing house sales'

Hundreds of families are being forced to sell their homes to pay for care fees, BBC Wales has found.

One leading lawyer said many of the sales could be unnecessary because the NHS should be picking up the bill.

Professor of nursing at Swansea University, Dame June Clark, told BBC Wales' Week In Week Out, Wales compared unfavourably with England.

The Welsh government said a review of the system is due to be completed next year.

The investigation found the number of people qualifying for continuing care nursing home funding has dropped by 7% since a new assessment process was introduced.

A system used by assessors in Wales also differs from that in England, prompting claims it is harder for dementia sufferers to qualify for funding in Wales.

Prof Clark, a former president of the Royal College of Nursing, said the English tool was "simpler".

"Every time you take a tool - a questionnaire or a measurement tool - and you modify it, you lose the validity and the reliability," she added.

'All they've got'

"And if you want to use it in its modified form, you have to re-test it to re-establish the validity and reliability and I don't think that we've done that.

"And I think as a result we've got a less effective decision support tool than is useful for us and it's less good than the English one."

Gillian Webb has been forced to sell her 91-year-old mother's home to pay her nursing home fees in Cardiff.

"Dad worked jolly hard, up roofs, in cold weather, he didn't have a pension, and they lived on what he brought home every month. That's all they've got and it's gone," she said.

Cardiff and Vale health board said it could not comment on individual cases, but its assessment process was in line with Welsh government guidance.

'Point of exhaustion'

Image caption Helen Jones is one of Wales' 350,000 carers

Helen Jones, one of Wales' 350,000 carers, looks after her 83-year-old mother Cynthia Molkner, with end-stage dementia, at her Porthcawl home.

She said she had not had a break for two years and was desperate for a few weeks' respite care, adding she was "on the point of exhaustion".

She said she had not had council help to pay for respite care because her mother's assets are greater than £22,500.

Abertawe Bro Morganwg Health Board said Mrs Molkner did not qualify for funding but it was arranging an independent assessment.

'Wrong decisions'

Solicitor Lisa Morgan believes families are selling properties when they are entitled to free nursing care.

"Unfortunately, wrong decisions are made frequently," she said, adding that she had won back more than £15m in wrongly-paid fees.

The programme asked Wales' health boards how many patients qualify for NHS continuing care funding.

In the past year 314 fewer people qualified for funding in nursing homes - a drop of almost 7%.

Almost 2,000 cases are waiting to be assessed in a backlog that goes back a decade.

Peter Tyndall, the public services ombudsman for Wales, said: "We are clearly unhappy that people had waited so long and we were unhappy that it took so long to put a process in place to deal with that backlog."

He said there was a "prospect of clearing that backlog eventually."

The Welsh government said: "Professional judgement will be necessary in all cases to ensure that the overall level of need is correctly determined."

It added: "A comprehensive review of the continuing health care framework will be complete by next summer."

Week In Week Out: Selling Up For Mum & Dad is on BBC One Wales at 22:35 BST on Tuesday.

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