Thirteen NHS bodies face legal action over ‘forced’ residential care policies

Thirteen NHS bodies have been threatened with legal action over policies which “breach the human rights of patients”.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is launching legal action against 13 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in England over their policies on NHS Continuing Healthcare.

NHS Continuing Healthcare (CHC) is a package of care provided outside hospitals, such as in people’s homes or in a care home, that is arranged and funded solely by the NHS through CCGs.

People must have a significant health need that goes above and beyond usual social care needs, such as help with washing or dressing.

But the EHRC has raised concerns about the policies in some regions having arbitrary caps on funding and failing to consider the specific needs of individual patients.

The announcement follows an investigation by BBC Radio 4’s You And Yours programme.

It found that some CCGs are bringing in “settings of care” policies which means if an NHS continuing care package for someone to live at home costs more than the cost of a place in a care home, they may have to go into residential care.

The EHRC said if the 13 CCGs fail to provide evidence to demonstrate their policies are lawful, or do not take steps to review them, they will be taken to court.

The CCGs have 14 working days to respond, after which decisions about starting court proceedings will be made, the EHRC said.

“It is utterly unacceptable that anyone should be forced into residential care when they are healthy enough to live independently and with their families,” said Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive at the EHRC.

“And it doesn’t make sense for individuals or communities. A ‘one-size fits all’ approach will never properly address every single individual’s healthcare needs, and NHS CHC policies are no different.

“This is another example of individuals being disabled by society, and prevented from living as full and independent lives as possible, as is their right. We will use our powers to ensure that the NHS thinks about this again.”

The EHRC initially raised concerns over such policies in October last year when it wrote to 43 CCGs asking for more information on their approach to delivering this care.

Following this, the EHRC said it plans to use its formal legal powers to initiate judicial review proceedings against 13, who it determines have not considered human rights and equality responsibilities in the way they operate their policies.

The 13 CCGs are: Brent, Coventry and Rugby, Dudley, East and North Herts, East Cheshire, Harrow, Hillingdon, South Cheshire, Vale Royal, West Cheshire, Warwickshire North, Lincolnshire West and Redditch and Bromsgrove.

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