Postcode lottery for elderly care

VULNERABLE people in Suffolk are the victims of a postcode lottery, it emerged today.Sick and elderly people living in parts of rural Suffolk are more than 40 times less likely to get NHS funded care either at home or in a care home than people in other parts of the country, according to new figures from Age Concern.

VULNERABLE people in Suffolk are the victims of a postcode lottery, it emerged today.

Sick and elderly people living in parts of rural Suffolk are more than 40 times less likely to get NHS funded care either at home or in a care home than people in other parts of the country, according to new figures from Age Concern.

The nationwide data showed that Central Suffolk Primary Care Trust (PCT), Suffolk Costal PCT and Suffolk West PCT gave just 0.5, 0.7 and 1.1 people in every 10,000 continuing care respectively, whereas in some areas as many as 47.2 people in every 10,000 were getting continuing care.

And people in Ipswich were also more likely to be receiving continuing care, with 4.7 people in every 10,000 having their bills met by the NHS.

Continuing care means being looked after in a care home that it is fully-funded by the NHS and includes all accommodation, food and nursing and personal care costs or personal and health care provided free at someone's home.

Gordon Lishman, director general of Age Concern, said: “The scale of this problem is unbelievable.

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“At present some older people, who are paying all the costs of their care, have higher needs than those who are fully funded in other areas.

“These figures indicate the ultimate post code lottery.”

And Gordon Slack from the Suffolk branch of the charity added: “Since 1996, all health authorities have had to have in place eligibility criteria which specify who is entitled to fully funded NHS care and who is not.

“The lack of national guidance has made it difficult for the clinicians to make precise decisions and there is understandable concern about how the criteria has been interpreted around the country and the county.

“It is important that the rationale for a decision not to pay continuing care funding is fair, clear and based on evidence.

“If readers think that a decision by their local PCT or recommendation by a Strategic Health Authority to refuse to pay full NHS funding to pay for the long term care of a relative or the person they look after is wrong, the NHS Ombudsman may be able to help.”

However Jonathan Williams, chief nurse for Suffolk PCT, said: “Anyone who is eligible for NHS fully-funded continuing care is treated equally, irrespective of where they live.

"We will have a look at this report as part of our ongoing comparison of our performance with other parts of the country."

Have you been refused continuing care despite being eligible? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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