FAMILIES are missing out on thousands of pounds for elderly relatives because complex NHS funding decisions on care homes are being made behind their back, say legal experts.

The average cost of a UK nursing home is £738 per week – that’s almost £40,000 a year.

But many families struggle needlessly to come up with the cash in a situation where they may be eligible for full funding from the NHS although few people know about it. This is known as NHS Continuing Healthcare and is not means tested. It is based on assessments of healthcare needs, such as mobility and severity of conditions.

Just 58,000 people currently receive continuing care funding but it is believed more than 150,000 are actually entitled to it.

Andrew Farley of Farley Dwek Solicitors, said many elderly relatives are being assessed for the funding without their families knowledge:

“The NHS is undertaking Continuing Care Funding assessments of patients in hospital without telling their families that an assessment is taking place. This gives them no opportunity to hear what they have to say. This is against the principles of the NHS Framework and we are urging families to consider an appeal any decisions that have been made in their absence.

“This means that in the worst case scenarios some families may have wrongly sold off their parents’ home to pay for care home fees when they were entitled to free funding all along.”

More than one million people have been forced to sell their homes to pay care home fees over the past five years. Tens of thousands more are unable to pass their homes on to their children as local authorities take charges out against properties that have to be paid when parents die.

Andrew Farley of specialist care funding solicitors Farley Dwek, which helps families secure NHS Continuing Healthcare Funding said:

“It is a disgrace. The problem is that the current funding system is unfair. It hits those who have worked their whole lives, spent their money wisely and put a bit aside for a rainy day. Families are spending millions of pounds on care home fees unnecessarily.

“They often struggle to secure the funding because they are given short notice by their local NHS to attend a complex funding assessment meeting, in many cases they are improperly assessed or even worse not advised that funding is available at all because they assessments are being carried out behind their backs.”

“Crucial ¬decisions are made that could spell the difference between paying nothing and paying £700 a week and families should not be ignored when these decisions are being made” added Mr Farley.

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