Tumour mum sold home to pay for care

ELDERLY people are being forced to sell their homes to pay for care which should be provided 'free' by the NHS, it is claimed

ELDERLY people are being forced to sell their homes to pay for care which should be provided 'free' by the NHS, it is claimed.Marian Fisher, aged 72, died with a tumour 'the size of a dinner plate' attached to her bowel.But her daughter, North Somerset Council chairman, Roz Willis, says she was forced to put her mother's house on the market to pay for her residential care when she believes she should have been entitled to financial help from the NHS.Mrs Willis, aged 53, says she also had to fork out £2,000 out of her own pocket for a blood transfusion for Marian. She now wants something to be done about the injustice which she says is still facing many families across North Somerset.She said: "Mum went into hospital originally because of a water infection but was diagnosed with Alzheimer's after a brain scan."Doctors assessed her and she told them she didn't want any more tests. She had already had two internal bowel examinations and did not want another. "She had been suffering with severe bowel problems and had been seeing a consultant at the hospital for two years. She was constantly anaemic because of the bleeding from her bowel.""Her blood count was so low she was parchment white and couldn't move her arms because the blood couldn't reach them."She was a very dignified lady."After seven weeks she came out of hospital but was told she didn't qualify for free residential care because we were told by the hospital her needs weren't predominantly of a medical nature."So we had to sell her house which she had lived in for nine years because I knew I couldn't pay the bill for her care. "It cost £25,000 for the time she was in the nursing home from April 2004 to February 2005."I also had to pay £2,000 for an emergency blood transfusion because Weston General Hospital said she would have to travel to Southmead in Bristol because there were no beds available at Weston. We had to go private because she was too frail to travel all that way."When she died in the nursing home she had a tumour the size of a dinner plate caused by her bowel problems. She died on morphine."People should have to pay for nursing homes if they can't look after themselves because of old age but not if they can't because of health problems. North Somerset Council couldn't help because it said it was something which required funding from the NHS."Councillors Mike Roe and Tom Leimdorfer have consistently asked at meetings whether anything can be done to help people in a similar position to Roz and Marian.Cllr Roe said: "Elderly people are being forced to sell their homes to pay for care which should be provided 'free' by the NHS. Many elderly people or their relatives are not able to fight the system to ensure they receive their entitlement. "North Somerset Primary Care Trust (PCT) has guaranteed that the local authority will be recompensed if it is found it has been paying for care which should have been provided by the NHS. "This guarantee must be extended to any individual or their heirs who have been forced to pay unnecessarily."Cllr Leimdorfer added: "If a patient no longer needs to be in hospital, but still needs complex nursing care, the NHS should continue to pay for their care in a nursing home. "This is how the Government's 'Continuing NHS Care' scheme works. I became aware of a problem affecting patients and carers in this area about five years ago. "The current situation is that the PCT still interprets the criteria in a way that is designed to turn down most people. "The NHS is shifting the cost of health care for these sick, disabled and vulnerable people to either the patients if they can pay or to the council tax payer."North Somerset PCT said it could not comment on individual cases. However, manager for funded nursing care, Jane Towler, said: "Everyone who leaves hospital following a serious illness is screened to see if there is a need for Continuing Health Care. "The eligibility criteria is based on the patient's individual health needs, not the diagnosis of their condition. If this screening reveals they might meet the criteria a full assessment is carried out and, together with supporting evidence, is presented to a panel of professionals. "The panel, which includes representatives from the PCT, social services, mental health trust and an independent nurse assessor, decides if the patient's needs meet the eligibility criteria. If they do the PCT will fund 100 per cent of the care. If not, a proportion of the care will be funded depending on the individual's needs.

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