Pensioners forced to sell their homes at knockdown prices to pay for care home fees, which should have been paid for by the NHS, have less than six weeks to lodge a claim, say experts.

Last year, more than 24,500 people sold their homes to pay residential care bills, a rise of 20 per cent in a decade.

Legal experts say a bungle in the system means thousands of families can reclaim fees the NHS should have covered.

These families have less than 6 weeks to lodge a claim to recover care home fees paid before the Government’s 30th September deadline.

Many residents, or their families, were forced to drastically reduce the asking price of their family home as a result of a dire property market and an urgent need to access finance to fund the fees.

Andrew Farley, Director at law firm Farley Dwek Solicitors, which acts for more than 100 families, said:

“The predicament of selling up and knocking down the price tag to pay for care is one that many families across the UK have faced in recent years. It’s a tough decision and for many, a last resort, but knowingly selling at a cut price is rubbing salt in the wound.

“People who have had relatives in care, with medical needs, who were forced to sell up, should investigate if they can claim back fees.”

“It’s a national scandal that people who have worked, saved and paid taxes all their lives are let down by a system that should be looking after them in later life.

“Many relatives of such residents have seen their inheritance vanish. It’s these individuals who need to claim back some of the money they are entitled to. Time is ticking though – the onus is on families to step forward and lodge a claim before the deadline expires on September 30th 2012.

“Successful claims will involve the patient having intense, complex or unpredictable physical or psychological health needs, or in some cases both. They require sustained nursing care over a 24 hour period as opposed to general care needs which can be met by the social services.”

It is estimated that 155,000 people or 41 per cent of care home residents are self-funders with fees averaging £25,000 a year. Families can claim back fees paid covering the period between April 1, 2004 and March 31, 2011.

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