Anger as NHS chiefs face care bill twice

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TENS OF millions of pounds put aside by health chiefs in Yorkshire to pay a huge bill for backdated claims for care home fees has been used by the Treasury to pay off the national debt - leaving the NHS to pick up the bill for a second time.

Former primary care trusts (PCTs) in the region put £110 million in coffers to cover more than 5,000 NHS continuing healthcare claims dating back to 2004.

The cash was due to be used to cover fees wrongly paid by relatives of people in care homes which should have been picked up by the NHS.

The measure was designed to lift pressure on new GP-led clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) amid promises from former Health Secretary Andrew Lansley they would not be saddled with past debts - but the Treasury has now taken the cash to bolster national finances, leaving CCGs to find the money again.

The move has triggered fury among health service officials, and calls into question a pledge by Ministers to increase NHS funding in real terms, with £250m from their budgets in England now being used in the next 12 months to cover claims. This leaves all CCGs in Yorkshire facing cuts in real terms to pay for services.

The biggest liabilities in Yorkshire are estimated to be in Rotherham where as much as £11.8m was set aside by the former PCT. Some 277 cases remain outstanding and the CCG estimates it will now have to find a further £1.3m in the coming 12 months to cover the bill.

Worksop GP Steve Kell, co-chairman of NHS Clinical Commissioners representing CCGs, said: “We should ask why PCTs were asked to make provisions in 2012-13 if the money couldn’t be used in future years under Treasury accounting rules.”

NHS England said it had handed £250m to CCGs to cover estimated legacy payments in 2014-15. A risk-sharing pool had been put in place to avoid disproportionate payments being borne by individual CCGs.

NHS continuing healthcare is free where sick individuals primarily have long-term health needs including funding of care home fees.

However, past failures to carry out effective assessments prompted a retrospective review.

Some families could receive six-figure awards after wrongly picking up bills for sick relatives.