Former Northampton MP says NHS payments to people with long-term illnesses are at a ‘standstill’

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NHS payments to help people with long-term illnesses are at a virtual standstill in Northamptonshire, a former MP has said.

NHS Nene has revealed it intends to increase Continuing Healthcare payments from £38.6 million across the county to £39.1 million, giving it a larger budget to distribute to the likes of dementia patients and those who need help at home because of ill health.

Sally Keeble, the former Labour member of Parliament, said considering carers were seeing all costs rise, the 1.2 per cent increase was not enough.

She said: “Inflation is 1.8 per cent so this is not even keeping pace with the increase pinch on people’s wallets.

“It is virtually a standstill budget when demand from frail and elderly people is increasing all the time.”

Figures from a national report compiled by Mrs Keeble showed that about a third of the applications for Continuing Healthcare payments to NHS Nene – which covers the whole county except Corby – were rejected.

And she has found evidence that some payments are made for a matter months before being reviewed and rescinded.

Northamptonshire Carers – which represents those who look after family members long-term for free – said it believed it was becoming more difficult for carers to have a successful application.

Sally Bresnahan, operations manger, said: “It does appear to us that it has been getting harder in the last two years.

“We would say that the eligibility criteria have tightened.”

She added: “We know of people who have had a review and it has been withdrawn and that can be disastrous.”

Commenting on Mrs Keeble’s report, Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, called Continuing Healthcare payments “a lifeline”. He said: “Callers to our Dementia Helpline tell us that applying for continuing healthcare for a loved one with dementia is a minefield. All too often we hear of families who are refused funding because their local NHS does not adhere to proper process.”