A New Year, a new crisis looming in the NHSJan 25th, 2018
A new report, 'NHS continuing healthcare funding', published by the Committee of Public Accounts, highlights the difficulties people face accessing NHS continuing healthcare (CHC).CHC funding is intended to help some of the most vulnerable people by providing funding or services to help the seriously ill manage their conditions outside of a hospital setting.
The report identifies a number of key concerns including:
- A lack of awareness of the availability of CHC funding;
- A ‘hugely complicated’ application and assessment process;
- A lack of support and advice for patients and their families during the application process;
- Significant delays with the assessment process;
- ‘Unacceptable variation’ between regions as to the numbers found eligible for funding;
- Inconsistent interpretation of the eligibility criteria by different Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) across England; and
- The Department of Health and NHS England are not sufficiently monitoring or supporting CCGs.
The most alarming finding of the report concerns the plan for CCGs to make efficiency savings of £855 million by 2020-21, raising fears savings could be made by restricting access to care, either by increasing eligibility thresholds or by limiting the care packages available.The report recommends NHS England provides the Committee with a costed breakdown, by April 2018, of how these efficiency savings will be achieved, and assurance that this will not result in restricted access to care for vulnerable patients.
Hopefully, the Committee’s recommendations will be adopted by NHS England and the close scrutiny will prevent further failings, however it seems likely the regional variations and delays will persist for some time.