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Single eligibility question should replace system for deciding who pays care homes fees, Department of Health says

If an assessment finds someone primarily needs healthcare need rather than social care then the health trust is responsible for funding that regardless of setting
Michael McHugh, Press Association

A single eligibility question should replace the system for deciding who pays care homes fees in Northern Ireland, the Department of Health has said.

If an assessment finds someone primarily needs healthcare need rather than social care then the health trust is responsible for funding that regardless of setting.

If the primary need is identified as social care then trusts are entitled to recover the costs of that care.

Consultation responses received by the department said a single eligibility criteria question would ensure equality, consistency and a standardised approach across Northern Ireland.

Health Minister Robin Swann said: "The preferred option which has emerged is to introduce a single eligibility criteria question - 'Can your care needs be properly met in any other setting other than a hospital?'

"My department will now commence a process along with key stakeholders across the HSC to implement the preferred option and develop associated guidance."

The Public Services Ombudsman has said the current system is unsustainable.

Mr Swann said: "I am confident that this option will provide a clear and easily understood test and will ensure a consistent and standardised approach in continuing healthcare outcomes across Northern Ireland.

"The key aim for everyone that does not need to be in hospital for a longer period of time is to get them well enough to return to whatever setting is most suitable for them in the community while ensuring that their health and social care needs are supported."

Ombudsman Margaret Kelly has said health trusts are reluctant to apply the existing Department of Health guidance because they are awaiting the results of a consultation it carried out in 2017.

She has asked the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, in consultation with the other trusts and health and social care organisations, to agree a uniform approach for assessing all future applications for continuing healthcare in Northern Ireland.

Mr Swann said they need to ensure that inequality issues for service users across Northern Ireland are addressed and there is regional consistency across all health trusts.

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