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Fighting for care

Panorama: Fighting for care - Broadcast on BBC One on Sunday, 18 July 2004 

What drives Peter, a 69 year old pensioner whose wife has dementia, to swear he'll fight the NHS 'until his dying breath' to get the right health care for his wife Ann.

Why does Barbara, aged 64, have to spend nearly three years battling the health service to keep her dying husband at home?

And why, even after a major government review, is one of this country's most vital care systems for frail, elderly people still being undermined by delays, obstruction and injustice?

Last year the Health Ombudsman reported that `NHS Continuing Care' (free care for certain people with long term illnesses) had been withheld from too many people at the most vulnerable stage of their lives.

The government said it would change the system and investigate any possible wrongful denials of Continuing Care dating back to 1996. It never expected to be investigating over 11,000 such cases and facing a bill for at least£180m in compensation.

The Department of Health now says it's made the system fairer, but Panorama has filmed for four months with Barbara, Freda and Peter who are still having to take on the NHS and fight every inch of the way for the health care their spouses deserve.

But even if the system was working smoothly with fair access to all, can we as a society really afford to fund the tens of thousands who may be eligible?

Continuing Care costs the NHS around£1,000 per week per person. Are we prepared to pay the high price of loving care during someone's dying days, or accept that other NHS priorities mean only those able to fight hardest for support will ever receive it?



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