The government has taken a small step towards addressing the discrimination faced by service-users with complex healthcare needs who risk being forced into institutions.
Last month, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) wrote to 13 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) as the first step in a potential judicial review of their policies on long-term NHS funding for care outside hospital, known as NHS continuing healthcare (NHS CHC).
But the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) now appears to have quietly altered key guidance on NHS CHC, making it harder for CCGs to continue to discriminate against disabled people receiving such funding.
Concerns about the policies of more than 40 CCGs were first raised in January 2017 by Fleur Perry, herself a recipient of NHS continuing healthcare.
Her research showed that many CCGs had drawn up policies suggesting they would move disabled people eligible for NHS CHC out of their homes and into institutions against their wishes, even if the cost of a homecare package was only slightly more expensive than residential care.
These concerns were subsequently taken on by EHRC, which believes that “blanket” policies that have imposed “arbitrary” caps on funding and fail to consider the specific needs of individual patients are “a serious breach” of the Human Rights Act, the CCGs’ public sector equality duty and DHSC’s own NHS CHC framework .
But Perry has now spotted that DHSC has made a minor, but significant, change to its framework document, which is due to come into effect in October and is the first new version for six years.