THOUSANDS of families forced into debt to fund care home places for ill relatives have less than three months to claim their money back from the NHS.

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. However, care home experts say too many have been charged for places that should have been funded by the NHS.

Families now have a strict deadline of 30th September to try and claim back fees paid covering the period between April 1, 2004 and March 31, 2011.

Although it is estimated that as many as 100,000 people are eligible to reclaim funding, so far only 5,750 people have won cases over the past five years.

Andrew Farley is a lawyer at Farley Dwek who represents families applying for reimbursement of fees. He said:

“We’re dealing with hundreds of cases from people that have wrongly paid fees for their elderly relatives. Some have been forced to sell their family homes to pay for care when in fact the NHS should have footed the bill. Even if the person is now deceased, families can still reclaim money that is rightly owed to them. It’s a national scandal that’s been swept under the carpet. The fact is, if a person is in a care home primarily for health reasons, then they should be eligible for funding.

“When choosing a care home for a relative, you’d expect to be given the correct advice about funding. Unfortunately, in too many cases this has not happened. It is now up to families to see if they are entitled to reimbursements for funding. This is a strict deadline, so it is vital that families act now and register their claim by 30th September. Potentially millions can be reclaimed.”

Complex rules governing funding and a postcode lottery mean too many people have been forced to pay for care themselves. The rules state if a care home resident’s needs are primarily for healthcare, then they are eligible for NHS funding.

Patients who are in a care home due to a medical condition should be assessed using either local pre 2007 or national guidelines post 2007.

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