NHSCare.info - What the Media Report and Parliament

updated Thursday 23rd March 2017 ( Bleddyn's embedded Video added )

"Social Care" is part of Health Care - according to the Law Society and the Royal College of Nursing.
Pamela Coughlan won her case against this Government in the Appeal Court in July 1999 .

Robin from Robin: I'm deeply grateful to those journalists who make the effort to understand the simple facts and communicate these clearly to the British Public with advice. e.g. the importance of comparison of the patient with Pam Coughlan.

We look for front page headlines, clear facts with practical advice, and mention of www.nhscare.info - so the reader or their solicitors can follow up and get more detailed advice.

I stopped regular updates to this page several years ago. Many reports have appeared on this subject, on Television, Radio or Newspapers. Sadly, many failed to grasp the basic important facts, and communicate these clearly to the public with useful advice. However, it seems the Daily Mail is led the way on showing how it should be done.... see below.

information for the Press and a plea from Robin ...

Our latest press release is here: show it to your Editor. Read the overview, so you see "the big picture".
Please try and understand, and then print or broadcast, the simple and important facts of any story, with some ADVICE.
e.g. the Law demands that the NHS pay ALL care home costs, if the patient needs as much care as Pam Coughlan .
Little has changed, but the facts are now even clearer. We ask that the NHS, Social Services and the Government obey the law.
This is NOT "thousands of people and millions of pounds" - it's "hundreds of thousands of families and tens of billions of pounds".

I'm sure experts could do much better than this three minute video that Pam and I put together :-)

Robin has appeared on TV - but others do it better !

The "ASONTV" page of Robin's GPSS.co.uk lists 15 TV broadcasts related to Robin's GPS Software. Robin has also appeared on TV a number of times, related to this NHSCare.info charity web site, set up in 2003 to provide advice on obtaining free NHS long term care. He appeared on BBCTV's "The Politics Show", BBC News 24, and Sky TV. However, Robin was rarely the "front man" in these broadcasts: others, far more eloquent, appeared in many more broadcasts, including Steve Squires, Derek Cole, Ian Perkins, Bleddyn Hancock, and Pam Coughlan herself. Robin simply maintained the NHSCare.info web site, and put journalists in contact with the right spokesperson. A long list of publicity achieved, including BBC "Panorama", Radio 4 "Today", and front page national newspaper articles, appears further down this "What the media reports..." page. See the front page of NHSCare.info, to see why publicity might have affected the 2015 Election result - if we'd got it ! Robin on the BBC Politics Show in 2007 is on youtube here.

Pam Coughlan - the video ...

Robin on BBCTV South Pam - the video Here are four videos for those of you on broadband.

The first is Robin and Pam's attempt to produce something that informs and gives advice. It was made when they met on Sunday 18th August 2007. You may view the video by clicking on Pam - the video, or the first youtube video below.

The second is part of the piece put together by reporter Caroline Richardson for inclusion in "The Politics Show" which was broadcast in late January 2007. This went out in the BBC TV South region of UK. This material is copyright of the BBC and I will remove it from this web site if requested to do so. You may view the video here. The Youtube version is here and below.

The third video is a short extract from the broadcast on Channel m TV, put together by students at the University of Salford. The extract shows Bleddyn Hancock explaining that the subject of free long term care is not complex at all. You can see Bleddyn on TV here.

Pam Coughlan's solicitor, Nicola MacIntosh, was interviewed for the Panorama "National Homes Swindle" ... here. white strip white strip

ITV Tonight on 11th November 2010 ...

"Jonathan Maitland investigates claims that vulnerable elderly patients are being forced to pay for medical care that used to be provided free by the NHS." The ITV page includes useful links to web sites that may help, including this. You can see the programme itself on itv player.

£250,000 victory for war vet who sold home to pay care bill

Article by Jenny Hope, Medical Correspondent, in Daily Mail on Saturday 20th March 2010. It describes the recent £250,000 win by the family of Leslie Terry, a war veteran suffering from Alzheimer's. The source of the story appears to be the solicitors who won the case for the family, and who have already won back £9million for other families. The online copy of the story is on the Daily Mail website

How YOU can win back money on unfair care costs - by Liz Philips

The following article appeared in the Daily Mail on Wednesday 26th August 2009, and is also on the Daily Mail website ....

How YOU can win back money on unfair care costs - by Liz Philips Despite the recent victory for three families who won £350,000 from the NHS for their frail relatives' nursing home fees, there are many more who are still wrongly paying for long-term care. Experts predict there could be as many as 100,000 frail and elderly people paying fees unnecessarily. With costs averaging £675 a week, many are forced to sell their homes to pay them. Whether your relative should be paid for by the NHS depends on their health. The law states that if they primarily need healthcare, all of their bills should be met by the NHS, in which case they don't need to fund their care themselves.

National guidelines on continuing care are subject to interpretation by primary care trusts (PCTs) and it can take years battling with a mountain of red tape to argue your case. The first step is for a medical team to assess their health. If this doesn't result in NHS-funded care, you can ask the PCT for another assessment. In Scotland, you ask for a second medical opinion. The next stage is to appeal to the Strategic Health Authority to review the situation in England or the local health board in Wales. In Scotland, your case will be reassessed by the NHS board and then you'll go through a formal NHS complaints procedure. If they still don't agree, you can take your case to the Health Service Ombudsman in England or the Scottish or Welsh Public Services Ombudsman. Finally, you can ask for a judicial review within three months of the Ombudsman's decision.

There is no reason why grieving families whose relatives have died can't make a retrospective claim for fees to be reimbursed. Solicitors claim families can even challenge a time limit on backdating claims in England to before 2004. There are 1,000 Solicitors For The Elderly (* tel. no. deleted), who specialise in such cases. More information can also be found through FirstStop - a free service provided by a number of agencies, including Help The Aged and Age Concern - on (* deleted - see below).

Campaigners who have succeeded in the past have a website: www.NHSCare.info.

* contact information deleted by Robin on 3rd September 2009, after checking out these organisations. The first promoted a large network of solicitors, but their list did not include well known solicitors in the field. The second seemed to be a front for a company selling financial services to the elderly. Their free literature did not seem sufficiently informative, and seemed intended to gather clients by suggesting you fill in a form. e.g. "does the applicant own a property ?" .

JUSTICE OVER CARE HOME COSTS - Daily Mail: 19th August 2009

"JUSTICE OVER CARE HOME COSTS" is the headline on the front page of the Daily Mail, on Wednesday 19th August 2009. This highlights the recent victory of three families who won back over £350,000 from the NHS, for patients with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. So far about £8million has been recovered for a further 750 families - that's an average of over £10,000 per family.

Pam Coughlan was interviewed on BBC Radio 4's "You and Yours" broadcast on Wednesday 26th August. At the same time, Robin Lovelock explained "Coughlan" and answered questions, at the "Golden Age" event at the new Ascot Racecourse Pavilion.

Sadly, few people know the simple facts and how to claim what is rightfully theirs. 750 families are a small proportion of the hundreds of thousands of families who have been duped into paying for the Care Home, when the Law demands that the NHS should pay. The Government and Department of Health have spent the last ten years, since Pam Coughlans historic victory in the High Court, "ducking and weaving".

The Ombudsman, The Royal College of Nursing, and The Law Society have made the facts clear: "Social Care" is part of Health Care, and the Law demands that anyone with care needs the same or greater than Pam Coughlan, must be 100% funded by the NHS - including all costs of the Care Home.

Sunday Express Campaign: July until September 2006 ...

Sunday Express on 30th July 2006 Stephen and Rod Johnson The Sunday Express came a little closer among national newspapers, to giving our story the treatment it deserves on 30th July 2006. "Vile plot to cheat our old and sick" on pages 6&7 by Lucy Johnstone made some important political points including that 700,000 homes had been sold under New Labour to pay for care and ended with ... get advice from www.nhscare.info. "Betrayal of the elderley" by Kate Garraway on page 31, did an excellent job of presenting the startling legal facts clearly. Stephen Johnson, seen here with his brother Rod, is a new "fighter" within our cause, and one of the first to be contacted by Lucy. Rod is only 53 and suffered a massive Intracerebral Haemorrhage in 2005. His brother Stephen has been pressing Rod's claim to 100% NHS funded care under the law, and appeared in local Cheshire newspapers and Television. Later issues every Sunday included touching stories but held little of consequence for our campaign.

Stephen Johnson wins - the NHS will pay £50,000 : April 2009 ....

Stephen Johnson wins his battle with the NHS

from Robin in April 2009: Stephen Johnson has described his recent win as a "hollow victory" because his brother Rod passed away last year, as did their mother: they were not able to share the pleasure of seeing the letter from the NHS which promised to pay £50,000 care home costs.

But Stephen's win after his long battle will give heart to many others in a similar position. He has used the services of a Law Firm, prominent in the field of getting the NHS to obey the Law and pay for long term care. Stephen has also been active in using the Press to spread awareness of this injustice which effects many thousands of other families.

The local newspaper has already published this new story, and you may read the front page article here. The "Campaign for Justice" newsletter, put together by Stephen Johnson and Phil Shakespeare is here. The larger version is here.

Panorama "National Homes Swindle" in March and July 2006

Nicola Mackintosh video "Investigation into the way people have been unlawfully forced into selling the house of a close relative to pay for their medical care in a nursing home. The NHS has been widely disregarding a legal test case which established when the medical care of the long-term sick should be free."
- from the BBC website which is here

from Robin on 24th July 2006: I understand that it was the front page of www.nhscare.info and our quote from the Law Society, that took the interest of Panorama producer Stephen Scott in October 2005, months before the first Panorama "National Homes Swindle" broadcast that went out in March 2006. He and Vivian White interviewed several of the "core team" of the NHSCare.info campaign, starting with Derek Cole and including Pam Coughlan, Stephen Squires, Ian Perkin, and families they put him in touch with.

You may find the video of Nicola Mackintosh, Pam Coughlan's solicitor, informative. This interview was first broadcast on BBCTV's Panorama in 2006.

Wanless Report and Steve Squires on BBC Radio Solent in 2006 ...

Steve Squires from Robin on 31st March 2006: Another report from banker Sir Derek Wanless was published yesterday: this one for the Kings Fund. The last, four years ago for the Government, recommended reforms to the NHS. This one says that means-testing should be scrapped and that "Social Care" should be funded to the tune of £1.7 billion per year. Here is my brief assessment of the report: Good News: There will be a brief flurry of media interest and some of the facts below may reach the UK public. e.g. the interview with Nicola MacIntosh, Pam Coughlan's solicitor, on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, and with Steve Squires on BBC Radio Solent. Under the existing law the NHS should be paying for this health care anyway - to the tune of nearer £3 billion per year. Bad News: Most journalists will probably miss these basic facts and will not realize that this report may herald a move by the New Labour Government (and any Conservative one that replaces it) to amend the 1948 Health Act, clarified by the "Coughlan" judgement. Change in the law will probably be presented to MPs and the public as one in which old people will benefit with partial funding of care. The reality may be that the right to 100% NHS funded care since 1948 will end - at least for those too old or weak to argue.

from Robin on 11th April 2006: this morning I received an audio CD from BBC Radio Solent and those of you on broadband may wish to hear the interview with Steve Squires in which he gives his expert opinion on the Wanless Report and repeats our request that the Government obey the law. You may hear the audio by clicking on stevebbc.mp3 (16MB) which is BBC copyright. This broadcast on 30th March was the second on Radio Solent by Steve and seems to have got our message to a wider audience than BBC Panorama and other nation-wide TV broadcasts. Many Thanks to Ed Sherry and Julian Clegg at the BBC for making this possible. As usual, Steve does not mince his words :-)

"Guide to fully funded NHS care" from the RCN in 2006 ...

from Robin on 9th March 2006: I've just received the Royal College of Nursing leaflet "Guide to fully funded NHS care" via Age Concern and this could be one of the best I've seen yet. The back page says "March 2006" and so it is only a few days old. It was commissioned by Age Concern, the Alzheimer's Society, Help the Aged and the Royal College of Nursing. It was produced in conjunction with Nicola Mackintosh, of Mackintosh Duncan solicitors, who was the lawyer for Pam Coughlan. Near the back is a draft letter. some will wish to use it to write to their local NHS and Social Services. Perhaps most interesting of all is the advice given under "if you are a professional working in health or social care you should..." - see our red "Make sure you are not breaking the law" above, under "simple advice for NHS and Social Services staff".

from September 2005 and earlier ...

Derek, Robin, Steve and David will continue to provide journalists, lawyers and politicians with the information and contacts they need to fuel publicity and public awareness on this issue. Please tell us of any articles that we missed. Our first priority is for this big £10bn story to reach the front pages, but we are also happy to provide leads for those investigative journalists who want to "dig a little deeper" on related stories.

You may read Robins' letter to Dr John Read, the reply, and its analysis on Robins' mother's case page. You will also find a very encouraging reply from Charles Kennedy, Leader of the Liberal Democrats. Please read Paul Burstow's eloquent words on our page Questions in Parliament.

Channel 4 Television News of Sunday 10th April 2005 - the video

Derek on Ch4 For those on broadband, or able to handle the 13.5MB of video lasting over 10 minutes, you may view the video here this video is understood to be the copyright of Channel 4 News and Robin will remove this material if requested. Channel 4 Television News did an exclusive ten minutes on this subject as the main feature in their 7.30pm evening news. Derek Cole and Ian Perkin, also active in this campaign, were interviewed, along with others such as Paul Burstow, MP and Stephen Ladyman, MP. This news piece was triggered by release of the Commons Select Commmittee report.

Rose Cophard on Meridian TV Television News

Rose Cophard and her nephew Mat appeared on the Kent area Meridian TV news on Monday 12th September 2005. You can see the 10MB of video here this video is understood to be the copyright of Meridian TV News and Robin will remove this material if requested.

Publicity Achieved

The following, in reverse chronological order, is publicity related to our nhscare.info campaign. Sorry if we've missed any pieces: tell Robin.

  • Monday 12th September 2005: Meridian TV News for Kent area covered case of Rose Cophard, threatened with eviction from a care home.

  • Friday 2nd September 2005: Hastings Observer: "LABOUR FAILURE" by Derek Cole. The full text of Derek's letter is here.

  • Wednesday 13th April 2005: Dail Mail: "Two years in hospital because of a care row" by Liz Phillips.

  • Sunday 10th April 2005: Channel 4 Television News did an exclusive ten minutes on this subject as the main feature in their 7.30pm evening news. Derek Cole and Ian Perkin, also active in this campaign, were interviewed, along with others such as Paul Burstow, MP and Stephen Ladyman, MP. This news piece was triggered by release of the Commons Select Commmittee report.
  • Sunday 10th April 2005: BBC1 TV early eavening news included a piece on this subject illustrated by the case of Barbara Pointon.
  • Sunday 10th April 2005: BBC Radio 4 8am News Headlines mention Commons Select Committee Report.

  • Saturday 18th December 2004: Daily Telegraph: "Health officials come under fire over bungled means testing" by Alison Steed.

  • Wednesday 24th November 2004: Daily Mail: "Red tape victory for loving wife" by Liz Phillips.

  • Wednesday 29th September 2004: Daily Mail: "Frail are still missing out on their free care" by Liz Phillips.

  • Friday 17th September 2004: The Guardian: "Health authorities bungle payouts to elderly " by John Carvel, social affairs editor.

  • Wednesday 21st July 2004: Daily Mail: "Red tape is cut to speed up appeals" by Liz Phillips.

  • Sunday 18th July 2004: Panorama on BBCTV Ch 1 at 10:15pm.

  • Wednesday 7th July 2004: Daily Mail: "Health Chiefs are denying the sick and frail their rights: Does nobody care?" by Liz Phillips.

  • Wednesday 30th June 2004: Daily Mail: "A long-term care lottery" by Liz Phillips.

  • Sunday 21st March 2004: Daily Mirror: "NHS FLEECE SENIORS ON CARE HOME BILLS" by Martyn Halle.

  • Wednesday 11th February 2004: Daily Mail: "Keeping up with care home fees" by Liz Phillips.

  • Monday 9 February 2004 1230pm: BBC2 TV: "Working Lunch" with Nicola Mackintosh

  • Wednesday 4th February 2004: Daily Mail: "Are you entitled to cash for care?" by Liz Phillips.

  • Monday 2nd February: The Guardian: "Family wins nursing case" by James Meikle, health correspondent.

  • Friday 5th December: The Guardian: "Call for OFT study of home costs" by Mary O'Hara.
    "Long-term care for the elderly in the UK is in financial crisis, according to the Consumers' Association and a group of 28 charities. They have used the Enterprise Act to submit what is known as a "super complaint" to call for a formal investigation by the Office of Fair Trading..... "

  • Tuesday 2nd December: Shropshire Star: " Council facing £2m bill for charges error"

  • Tuesday 4th November: The Echo: "Teddy backs new care campaign". See Monica & Judy's page

  • Sunday 12th October: The Observer: "Care home refund 'to cost £550m'" by Jo Revill, health editor.

  • Monday 29th September: The Guardian: "Elderly 'betrayed' over care terms" by John Carvel.
  • BBC Radio 4 Today programme: 0730 news headline and interview with Stuart (Lord) Sutherland.

  • Wednesday 20th August: Daily Mail: "Ten ways to save money on care fees" by Liz Phillips.

  • Wednesday 6th August: Daily Mail: "The care cash rip-off" by Liz Phillips.

  • Thursday 24th July: The Guardian: "Councils told to pay £80m in care costs" by John Carvel, social affairs editor.

  • Saturday 5th July: The Guardian: "How elderly are being cheated - Just how honest is the long term care system ?" by Tony Levene.

  • Wednesday 2nd July: Daily Mail Page 45: "NHS 'fobs off' elderley" by Liz Phillips.

  • Thursday 26th June: Daily Mail: "Epidemic of Outrage over pensioners told to pay for their care fees" by Beezy Marsh.

  • Tuesday 13th May: The Guardian: "Making the sick pay" by Nicola Mackintosh. Nicola Mackintosh is the lawyer who represented Pam Coughlan in her landmark case now known simply as "Coughlan". She is an expert in community care, mental health and health law, and is legal aid lawyer of the year 2003 (civil and social welfare law). Nicola Mackintosh is a partner in Mackintosh Duncan solicitors, south London.

  • Wednesday 5th March: Daily Mail Page 53: "Do you pay too much for long term care?" by Liz Phillips.

  • Tuesday 4th March: Western Morning Views: "Abuse of NHS rules is still going on" by Stephen Squires.

  • Wednesday 26th Feb: Financial Mail: "Care home scandel is exposed".

  • Tuesday 25th Feb: Reading Evening Post: report by Linda Fort.
  • Sunday 23rd Feb: Sunday Telegraph 'Money' Pages:
    Page 2: "The Ombudsman Report is just what the doctor ordered" by Liz Dolan.
    Page 3: "New Hope over Long Term Care" (full page spread) by Emma Simon.
    from Derek to Emma: "Congratulations on your full page today. I particularly liked the advice section, which is spot on. I also liked the Editorial by the Editor of the Money section as well."

  • Saturday 22nd Feb: BBC Radio 4 "Moneybox". Ombudsman Ann Abrahams and lawyer Nicola Mackintosh ... suggested that all those in care homes should raise this with local health authority.

  • Friday 21st Feb: Reading Evening Post: "SON'S VICTORY IN MUM'S CARE CASE"
  • Friday 21st Feb: Daily Express: Page 6: "Rip-off of old Folk"
    Care scam victims to win payout - by Michael Day and Ben Sheppard.
  • Friday 21st Feb: Daily Mail: Page 7: "Care home residents robbed by the NHS"
    By Jenny Hope and Steve Doughty - excellent full page spread with Questions and Answers.
  • Friday 21st Feb: Daily Mirror: Page 25: "EXPOSED: THE GREAT CARE CON".
    'Old must get free nursing' By Jill Palmer. (see below).
  • Friday 21st Feb: BBC Radio 4 Today programme: John Humphfries interviews Steve Squires and Lord Hunt, the Government Health Minister.

  • Thursday 20th Feb: BBC 10pm News. Neil Dixon's detailed report including interviews with Steve Squires and Paul Burstow, MP.
  • Thursday 20th Feb: ITN 10pm News. Steve Squires.
  • Thursday 20th Feb: 6pm London Tonight TV News. Liz Wycombe's report including cases of Jean Wooley and David Gooch's mother. Interviews, including with Paul Burstow, MP.
  • Thursday 20th Feb: 6pm Meridian TV News. Mention of David Gooch's mother's case.
  • Thursday 20th Feb: Reading Chronicle: "Dying mother told to sell home for care" Exclusive by Genevra Fletcher (article describes case of David Gooch's mother).
  • Thursday 20th February: Radio Berkshire: interviews with David Gooch and Debbie Bamford, Exec. Dir. of Thames Valley Health Authority.
  • Thursday 20th Feb: Sky TV: interview with Robin for later in day, pictures of his mum, etc.
  • Thursday 20th Feb: BBC 24 News: Live interview with Robin, late morning.
  • Thursday 20th Feb: BBC "Breakfast" TV: 07:05 shows Pamela Coughlan, Steve Squires and others. 07:10 Interviews with Colin Mercer and Nicola Mackintosh - the winning solicitor for Pamela Coughlan. Headlines included interview with Steve Squires who won his battle without legal support. 08:10 interview with Pamela Coughlan, the heroine of this story, who put the details across with eloquence and grace.
  • Thursday 20th Feb: BBC Radio 4 "Today" Programme: 0640 Neil Dixon's report, then at 07:05 Chris Hogg's report, then at 07:20 interviews with Ann Abraham, the Ombudsman and Paul Burstow, MP.

  • 19 January Sunday Telegraph Money Pages:
    Page 1: "Lib Dems call for long-term care audit" (photo of Paul Burstow) by Emma Simon.
    Page 2: "It's time to take the gloves off over long-term care" by Liz Dolan.
    Pages 3,4: "The long-term care lottery" in-depth article by Emma Simon.

    From Robin: Liz Dolan, Personal Finance Editor says, "I've seen the light. It's time for action. The Sunday Telegraph is now officially on the case". Excellent: let us now see this big story start to move from the "Money" pages to the front news pages. Many thanks to you both.

    From Derek: The two cases featured in the S.Telegraph money section today as having won free care home provision after it was unlawfully refused them are both cases I have been running in 'Reaching Out', magazine of the Guillain Barre Group. Jean Woolley's case was all mine, but Steve Squires launched his Ombudsman's appeal himself before his M.P., John Burnett, introduced us. Both of them are giving massive support in other cases.

  • 15 Jan: House of Commons: Questions being asked by MPs

  • 13 January Sunday Telegraph. front page of 'Money': by Emma Simon; Two more cases won; Photo of Barbara and Malcolm Pointon who now get NHS funding from South Cambridgshire PCT; £25000 compensation from Croydon PCT for the unlawful sale of Jean Woolley's home.

  • 9 January Ascot Express (Express Group of local newspapers) page 16
    "Don't lose your plot to pay for care" By Sam Mathews. (see "Ascot Express" below).

  • 15 December Sunday Telegraph Money Page 2

  • 12 December - www.NHSCare.info and Press Release - Derek Cole & Robin Lovelock.

  • 8 December Sunday Telegraph Money Page 1 (with photo of Stephen Squires)
    "Ombudsman makes NHS pay for long-term care" by Emma Simon.

  • December (Winter) Reaching Out magazine - cover photo and headline:
    "Property the old and the sick is more at risk from NHS authorities than from thieves,burglars and con-men". 2 page report on P14&15 "Bizarre report breaks the law" by Derek Cole.

  • 11 November Daily Mail "Elderley 'cheated of free care' P19.

  • 10 November BBC R4 0700 News headline "360,000 people selling their homes to pay for nursing care"

  • 10 November 2002: Press Release from Paul Burstow, MP.
    "WHO PAYS? WHO CARES? Over 360,000 people may have been forced to sell their homes unnecessarily to pay for long-term health care since Labour came to power", Liberal Democrat Spokesman for Older People Paul Burstow MP said today.

  • "The property of the old and disabled is more at risk from NHS authorities
    than from thieves, burglars and con-men"
    Extract from'Reaching' Out Magazine of the Guillain Barre Group Nov 2002.

  • "NHS Managers Rig Medical Evidence !"
    Extract from "Reaching Out", magazine of the Guillain Barre Group for July 2002.

The media, triggered by release of the long-awaited Ombudsman's Report, published in February 2003 (HC 399) have now started to give our main story some attention: that 300,000+ families may claim back some £10 billion under Coughlan. You may download the entire Ombudsman's report HC 399 as a PDF file

The following is based on recent information from the Ombudsman's office:


The Health Service Ombudsman, Ann Abraham, published her Annual Report for England 2002-03, on 26 June 2003. The Ombudsman, who took up her post in November 2002, said that her Office had received a record 3,994 complaints, a considerable increase over the 2,660 received last year. This was almost entirely due to the number of complaints about NHS funding for the continuing care of elderly and disabled people which were received in the wake of her report on the subject, which was published in February (HC 399).

Only 30% of the total number of complaints received were able to be considered for investigation. The rest had either not been through the NHS complaints procedure (as required by law) or were about matters outside the Ombudsman's jurisdiction. 179 investigation reports were issued and around 75% of the complaints were upheld. Almost 90% of complaints concerned the care and treatment given to patients and often matters had been made worse by poor complaint-handling by the Health Service organisation involved.

In yesterday's report the Ombudsman gave her initial thoughts on the Department of Health's recently published plans to improve the NHS complaints procedure. Ann Abraham said, "I am encouraged by the Department's commitment to deal positively with complaints and to use the lessons learned from them to improve the standard of service to all of us who use the National Health Service. At present I see examples of both good and bad complaint handling; the picture across the country is patchy. To make any new complaints system work, chief executives of trusts and strategic health authorities will have to take complaints seriously and put the necessary effort and resources into dealing with them well. It will also be crucial to the success of the new procedure that it includes a stage which is perceived as independent by NHS staff and complainants alike. "

More information can be found on www.ombudsman.org.uk


Febuary 21st 2003 'Old must get free nursing' By Jill Palmer 

ELDERLY people who need nursing home places should get them free on the NHS, the health service ombudsman ruled yesterday. Ann Abraham's decision followed a court case fought by Pam Coughlan to get NHS care - and could open the floodgates to similar claims. Ms Abraham said some health authorities had got the rules wrong, leaving elderly and disabled people to pay out of their own pockets and suffer "hardship and injustice". Some were put in homes run by social services and charged after means testing rather than being given free care by the NHS. She ordered health authorities and trusts to follow Health Department guidance and the law after Mrs Coughlan's case. And they must check their records for anyone they have wrongly ordered to pay for their care. Mrs Coughlan, paralysed in a crash, sued North and East Devon health authority, which wanted to close the nursing home in Exeter where had she had been promised "a home for life". The High Court overturned the closure in 1999. After the ombudsman's ruling Mrs Coughlan said: "It's shameful that the Government guidance has put the burden on these helpless people." Paul Burstow, Lib Dem spokesman on older people, said it would open the floodgates for compensation claims running into millions of pounds. "Ministerial bungling" meant "tens of thousands of elderly people have been illegally forced to pay for care that should have been free". Help the Aged said the treatment of elderly people was "scandalous". The Health Department said: "We have already taken action to deal with some issues raised."

Ascot Express

Robin was delighted to read the article by Sam Matthews in his local Ascot Express Newspaper. He was rather flattered at being described as "a good samaritan" and is certain that some senior staff within the NHS may employ rather more colourful terms to describe him :-) Robin hopes that the Ascot Express do not mind him repeating the text from the article here. It is most refreshing to see a journalist understand the full significance of this big story and express it clearly - let us hope the "nationals" will follow Sam's lead. Other journalists wishing to contact the Ascot Express may do so on 01753 825111.

Don't lose your plot to pay for care

By Sam Matthews

A GOOD Samaritan has set up a free website to prevent elderly people being cheated into selling their homes to pay for care in a nursing home. Robin Lovelock, of Sunninghill, decided to take action after the experiences he encountered with his mother Eve who was moved from an NHS hospital to a BUPA nursing home in November. He said, "Very few people, including it seems our politicians, understand that under the law, the NHS must pay for 100 per cent of our nursing needs." According to Robin, a practical outcome of a landmark legal ruling in 1999, means thousands of people who sold their homes to move into a nursing home can lawfully claim the money back. The germ of an idea was sown when by pure luck he heard a BBC Radio 4 bulletin and then was given a newspaper cutting explaining that 360,000 old people were cheated into selling their homes to pay for nursing care. He then got in touch with Derek Cole who provided expert legal advice for Robin and several other people in similar situations. With Derek's help, he set up the website to offer free practical advice for those who realise this subject applies to them and their family. So far successful claims have been in the region of £20,000 to £50,000 but the figures could be much higher than this, especially as a nursing home typically costs £30,000 a year. Robin wants as much publicity as possible, and hopes the site may assist in the NHS and social services who need to make decisions. He said, "If this subject is common knowledge it will be more difficult for politicians to sit on the fence, perhaps claiming ignorance of how the law stands on this." The website can be found on www.nhscare.info

Paul Burstow's report "Who Cares, Who Pays?" in November 2002

It was the BBC Radio 4 "Today" programme, and newspaper publicity following MP Paul Burstow's report in November 2002 that led to Robin contacting researcher James Sandbach in Paul's office, and then Derek Cole. It was Derek who had provided key legal information for the report. You may read Paul Burstow's report here, under "Who Cares, Who Pays?"

Footnote from Robin

All political parties are probably "a little frightened" of "Coughlan" and this story. Why ? Because it mostly relates to local government, and all parties are probably vulnerable at this local level. They will all use the story for their own political ends, but it does not change the basic facts: many people can claim back money that is lawfully theirs - to the tune of a possible £10 billion. Many others need not sell their homes to pay for care - but they need to know that they qualify, and what they should do.