War hero's new battle

WAR veteran Harry Southgate spent 37 years serving his country, but now he faces a new battle - to get his country to help him.

WAR veteran Harry Southgate spent 37 years serving his country, but now he faces a new battle - to get his country to help him.

The 85-year-old is suffering from dementia but his son Robert has faced a desperate year-long battle to get his sick father free continuing care in a nursing home on the NHS.

Robert, a police officer launched his fight when he was told his father was not eligible for the free care - but found himself labelled by NHS Suffolk as an unreasonably persistent complainer and threatened with legal action himself - a threat which has since been removed.

When he appealed to the East of England Strategic Health Authority (SHA) over NHS Suffolk's initial refusal to pay for the care a new assessment of his father was ordered which is due to be carried out soon.

Robert wants to be as involved as possible, but feels he is being locked out by NHS Suffolk because he will not be allowed to attend the meeting deciding his father's fate.

Today Robert, who lives in Hertfordshire, said: “I'm disgusted at the way the elderly of this country are treated by the NHS.

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Mr Southgate senior served in the RAF and saw action in the Second World War against the Japanese forces.

Robert added: “He is ill and should be looked after, but NHS Suffolk has an appalling record at agreeing to fund continuing care.

“NHS Suffolk should have accepted its legal obligation to pay my father's care costs in full in July 2007.

“This led to an 18 month battle to overturn their illogical decision, and in the process led it to unfairly label me as an unreasonably persistent complainer and to threaten me with legal action. And all I was doing was getting something that my father is entitled to in law.

“If I wasn't as assertive as I have been I would have just been pushed about, which must be what happens to other people or people without family.

“It is so depressing and makes me so angry.”

A spokesman for NHS Suffolk said: “All continuing care assessments carried out by NHS Suffolk are undertaken by health and social care professionals, with input from the patient's family.

“The assessments are then submitted to a local panel, made up of clinicians and a social care professional, who look at the health needs of the individual patient. If the patient meets national eligibility criteria, a package of care funded by the NHS is put in place, according to their needs.

“In this particular case, the assessment was challenged and the decision independently reviewed by a second panel. This panel, which has different membership to the first, has now asked for an updated assessment to be carried out.

“NHS Suffolk is continuing to wholly fund the patient's care throughout this process.”

- Should more be done to look after older people in Suffolk? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.


- June 2007 Harry, is taken into Ipswich Hospital with a urinary tract infection - he had previously lived with his wife in Jamie Cann House in Ipswich.

- Following his hospital stay it is decided his needs are too great to go back to Jamie Cann House. This decision followed a discussion between doctors at Ipswich Hospital and staff at Jamie Cann House.

- NHS Suffolk carry out an assessment to see if Harry could receive fully funded NHS continuing care and in July they ruled him ineligible because they said his needs were social, not medical.

- Robert appeals the decision and while the process is ongoing Harry is moved into Anglesea Heights nursing home, where he is still staying, funded by NHS Suffolk until his case is resolved.

- September 2008 the SHA review panel decided Harry was eligible for fully funded NHS continuing care, though they considered his a borderline case and recommend NHS Suffolk carries out another assessment which is still to be completed.

Fastfacts: Alzheimer's Society

- Caring for a person with dementia costs the UK �25,472 per person a year, or �17bn in total. Out of this �17bn, carers save the country �6bn.

- On average it costs a care home �627 a week to look after someone or �445 in private residential care.

- There are 83,800 people with severe dementia in the UK and only 38,000 people in the country are receiving continuing care for a variety of conditions.

The Alzheimer's Society believe 60,000 people are missing out on treatment that they need and deserve.

Did you know?

In Suffolk 13 people in every 50,000 receive free NHS continuing healthcare.

In Norfolk the figure is 21 in every 50,000 and in Cambridgeshire 22 in every 50,000.