With all the emphasis being given to Inheritance Tax planning these days, it is not often appreciated that, for many people, a much more punitive ‘tax’ is represented by the cost of having to finance the whole of their care home costs until their capital falls below the upper limit (£20,500 in 2005/6) and to contribute towards the cost until their capital falls below the lower limit (£12,500 for 2005/6).
Recently, the Government’s guidelines on care finance have been taken to task by the High Court. A Mrs Grogan, who suffers from multiple sclerosis and a number of other health problems, was informed by the Bexley NHS Care Trust that she did not qualify for full funding of her care costs. The Trust claimed that its decision was in line with NHS guidance issued by the South East London Strategic Health Authority. The Trust was willing to pay only a contribution towards her nursing costs. The case was the first major legal challenge to examine where the line should be drawn between the Department of Health’s guidance on financing nursing care and, in particular, the guidance on when fully funded care should be available.
The Court concluded that the NHS Trust had taken an unlawful approach to the problem and could not evade its responsibility to pay for the care when the primary care need of the claimant is a health need. If the primary need is not a health need, (i.e. when it is primarily an accommodation need and the healthcare provision is part of a care package) there is no obligation on the NHS to provide the care free.
This case confirms that eligibility for long-term care funding depends on whether the primary need of the patient is a healthcare need or not.