The Department of Health’s handling of the repayment of care home fees which should have been paid by the NHS is a “national scandal”, a Manchester-based lawyer has said.

Andrew Farley, a director at Farley Dwek Solicitors, is spearheading a campaign to raise the profile of the issue and encourage families across the UK to fight for retrospective care home fees which might have paid erroneously.

“It’s a national scandal that’s been swept under the carpet,” said Farley, who represents families applying for reimbursement of fees. “The fact is, if a person is in a care home primarily for health reasons, then they should be eligible for funding.

“Even if the person is now deceased, families can still reclaim money that is rightly owed to them. Some have been forced to sell their family homes to pay for care when in fact the NHS should have footed the bill.”

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.

Lawyers estimate that as many as 100,000 people are eligible to reclaim funding for care home fees wrongly paid by elderly patients. However, less than 6,000 people have won cases over the past five years.

The Department of Health has set a new deadline of 31 March 2013 for families to lodge a claim to recover care home fees spent between 1 April 2011 and 31 March 2012. However, experts say information about the process has been poorly communicated by NHS trusts who are barely promoting the policy and that it ‘smacks of a cover up’.

“If the government is to avoid being accused of a cover up it has to give the NHS the resources it needs to communicate this policy effectively. Putting it up on a single webpage where it will never be found is scandalous,” said Farley.

“We estimate the government has earmarked at least £100m for the relatives of victims, but we believe they are quietly satisfied at the relatively slow take thanks to a strategy of trying to keep the issue low profile,” he continued.

Independent financial advisers have a major role to play in alerting clients to the possibility of securing compensation, believes Farley. “IFAs have a key role to play in raising the profile of this national disgrace. By highlighting the issue with IFA’s hopefully more victims will come forward,” he said.

“If your client or a relative of a client was rejected for funding on financial eligibility alone and their healthcare needs were never considered then they should challenge the decision immediately. We’re handling more than 250 cases and it’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

Farley Dwek Solicitors has set up a free specialist hotline for IFAs who need more advice (0161 272 5222).

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