Are you eligible for NHS Continuing Care funding?
If you have a disability or complex medical problem, you might qualify for free NHS Continuing Care. Not many people know about it, so it’s important to find out if you’re eligible and get an assessment.
What is NHS Continuing Care?
If you need a lot of nursing support, NHS Continuing Care can arrange and fund your care for you.
It helps you with health-care needs that result from disability, accident or illness.
If you qualify, it should meet the full cost of your care including the full fees of a nursing home or hospice, although you can also get the care at home.
Who is eligible for free NHS Continuing Care?
The only sure way to know if you’re eligible for free NHS Continuing Care is to ask your GP or social worker to arrange an assessment.
There’s no clear-cut list of health conditions or illnesses that qualify for funding.
Most people with long-term care needs don’t qualify for NHS Continuing Care because the assessment is quite strict and being frail isn’t enough.
But don’t let that put you off.
Free healthcare could be worth thousands of pounds each year, so it’s important to find out where you stand.
What are eligible health needs?
As a guide, ‘eligible’ health needs may include:
- Complex medical conditions that need additional care and support
- Long-term medical conditions
- Physical or mental disabilities
- Terminal illnesses
- Rapidly deteriorating health
- Mobility problems
- Behavioural or cognitive disorders
There are plenty of grey areas and you may have other conditions that mean you qualify.
Getting NHS Continuing Care often depends on where you live. This is because all local authorities have different budgets and different ways of working out what qualifies for funding.
You may know people in similar circumstances who’ve been turned down. But the only sure way to know if you’re eligible is to ask your GP or social worker to arrange an assessment.
What costs are covered?
NHS Continuing Care covers personal care and healthcare costs, such as paying for specialist therapy or help with bathing or dressing.
It may also include accommodation if your care is provided in a care home, or support for carers if you’re being looked after at home.
If you need nursing care, you might get NHS funded nursing care. You might get this even if you don’t qualify for NHS Continuing Care.
Funding varies by region, so you’ll need to check with your local Clinical Commissioning Group, Health Board or Health and Social Care Trust to see what’s covered.
- Find your local Clinical Commissioning Group in England
- Find your local Health Board in Scotland
- Find your local Health Board in Wales
- Find your local Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland
What happens during the assessment process?
Step 1 – The initial screening
First of all, you’ll have an initial screening to see if you’re eligible for funding.
It’s usually carried out in hospital or at home by a nurse, doctor, social worker or other healthcare professional.
They’ll assess your general health and care needs with a simple checklist that will cover:
- Cognition (everyday understanding of what’s going on around you)
- Psychological and emotional needs
- Nutrition (food and drink)
- Skin (including wounds and ulcers)
- Symptom control through drug therapies and medication
- Altered states of consciousness
- Other significant care needs
If your health, or the health of someone you care for, is getting worse rapidly, ask about a fast track assessment to bypass the initial screening.
Step 2 – The assessment
Don’t be put off
Even though the assessment process can be complex, most people and families who’ve been through it say the benefits are worth it.
If the initial screening shows that you may be able to get free NHS Continuing Care, you’ll need to have another assessment.
It will be carried by a team of two or more health- and social-care professionals who are involved in your care.
The team will use the same checklist above but will go into a lot more detail. They will mark each of your care needs as:
If you have at least one priority need or two severe needs, you should qualify for funding.
If you have one severe need and a number of other high or moderate needs, you may also be eligible.
- Find out more about the assessment process in the Department of Health leaflet ‘NHS continuing healthcare and NHS-funded nursing care’ (PDF).
- Find out more about the assessment for NHS Continuing Healthcare in Scotland in this ‘Continuing Health Care Assessment Summary’ (PDF)
What to do if you don’t agree with the assessment
Circumstances change, so even if you were turned down for funding at first, make sure you have your situation regularly reviewed. Your GP or social worker can help you.
Ask your local Clinical Commissioning Group, Health Board or Health and Social Care Trust for a review of their decision.
If their decision was only based on an initial screening, ask for a full assessment.
You should be given an opportunity to contribute to the review and to see all the evidence that was taken into account.
You may be able to appeal if you’ve already been paying for care-home fees and think you should have received NHS funding.
To do this, speak to your social worker or health practitioner, and ask for a retrospective assessment.
What if you don’t qualify for NHS Continuing Care funding?
Even if you don’t qualify for NHS support, you may still be eligible for local authority funding to meet some of your care needs.
Need more information?
- In England, get practical support on the NHS Choices website
- In Scotland, find care information for older people on the Care Information Scotland website
- In Wales, find out more about continuing NHS Healthcare on the Health in Wales website
- In Northern Ireland, contact your local Health and Social Care trust for more information