A new report launched today, The Denial of NHS Continuing Healthcare in Northern Ireland by Age NI outlines how older people in Northern Ireland are being denied access to assessments for NHS funded Continuing Healthcare.
Unlike their counterparts in GB, older people’s access to Continuing Healthcare is inadequate. NHS Continuing Healthcare is a package of ongoing care that is arranged & funded solely by the NHS where an individual has been found to have a ‘primary health need.’
There is no clear guidance on the issue in Northern Ireland and as a result many older people are paying for care that should be paid for by the NHS.
At a Stormont event to launch the report, Carmel McCrossan from Strabane spoke of the experience that she, her beloved husband Felix and family had recently.
Carmel said, 'After surgery in 2009, my husband Felix was left in a persistent vegetative state. He was initially cared for in hospital and transferred to a nursing home in 2011.
'We were told that he required 24 hour specialist nursing care and that ‘in the past [he] would have been cared for in a “continuing care bed” due to the complex nature of his needs. After assessment, we were told that we had to fully fund his care in a nursing home.
'It was a stressful and difficult time – we didn’t know what help was available and we didn’t know what questions to ask, let alone who to ask for support. No-one had mentioned Continuing Healthcare and we didn’t know of it until my daughter started to investigate our situation further.
'Felix needed care, our family needed support. There was no information, only confusion, worry and stress and the sense that I was being pushed into making decisions that I didn’t truly understand. My husband Felix passed away in 2013 after almost 4 years that left our family overwhelmed.’
Felix McCrossan pictured with his daughter Sarah.
Linda Robinson, Age NI Chief Executive, commented, 'If Felix had lived in England, Scotland or Wales, he would have been eligible to be assessed for fully funded NHS Continuing Healthcare. The Health and Social Care Trust would have had clear guidance to assist in determining the nature, complexity, intensity and unpredictability of his health and social care needs.
'Age NI’s The Denial of NHS Continuing Healthcare in Northern Ireland report demonstrates all too clearly that Continuing Healthcare exists in NI but it is not defined, and older people like Felix and Carmel are being denied their rights.
'Age NI is calling for the introduction of necessary guidance that will support older people and their families to access the support they need. The provision of health and social care is undergoing significant change at present.
'Older people and their families need to be assured that when they engage with health and social care they will be treated with dignity and respect. The absence of any guidance is hindering health and social care professionals in providing accurate and up-to-date information to older people and their families.
'The need for a regional framework, similar to other parts of the UK, is now paramount to accurately reflect the provision of NHS Continuing Healthcare in Northern Ireland.'
Felix’s case is on-going and Age NI’s Advice and Advocacy service is working on behalf of his family to achieve justice for him.