Ministers Guilty Over Care Cash

The health service ombudsman, Ann Abraham, last night found the government guilty of maladministration for failing to organise proper compensation for thousands of vulnerable people who were unlawfully charged for NHS care.

{mosimage}She said the Department of Health gave the wrong advice to NHS trusts about how to make amends to people who were obliged to sell their homes to pay for a nursing home place that should have been free.

As a result there was a postcode lottery, with some older and disabled people getting a fair deal and others denied appropriate reimbursement.

Ms Abraham said four years ago that more than 11,000 people were improperly denied free care when they were moved from long-stay beds in NHS hospitals into nursing homes. The mistake was made by local authorities, but she made NHS trusts responsible for paying compensation.

The government forecast that it would cost £180m. In a follow-up report today, the ombudsman said the department gave trusts flawed advice that took no account of the need to compensate victims for distress.

Officials also said interest should be calculated using the retail price index when they should have used the more generous county court judgment debt rate. Ms Abraham told the department to issue fresh guidance.

The care services minister, Ivan Lewis, accepted her recommendations and promised new guidelines in June.