In February 2016 the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) published a report “Hidden charges in care homes”. This suggests that as an increasing number of individuals are moving into care for long term purposes, the consumer protection rights afforded to them under legislation are being overlooked. The report makes for interesting reading. We know that with 433,000 older or physically disabled people in care (LaingBuisson (2015) Care of Older People UK Market Report 27th Edition), this is a very large share of the market. These individuals are, by the very nature of their illness or infirmity, captive audiences.
The CAB report undertook a mystery shopper exercise and found that the majority of care homes give extremely short notice of fee increases and that they also fail to pass on care savings when people are away from the home for extended periods of time. The research also found that additional fees were often charged separately for key services but these are very hard to uncover before moving into care. Unexpected bills were received for chiropody, telephone calls and entertainment, as these were not part of the standard “hotel costs”.
The CAB has identified the opportunity to provide stronger guidance about notice periods for care home fee increases, improve guidance on good practice for care home residents who are away for extended periods of time and ensure that people are given a clear breakdown of costs before they move in.
A move into care which is permanent ensures that somebody is safe, warm and cared for. They do however still have the same practical needs as those elderly or vulnerable people who are not in care. These may include trips to the hospital, trips to the doctor or having their hair cut, but the person in care may need assistance to carry them out.
Moving into care is an important step for anybody. We wouldn’t sign a contract for the tenancy of a property without carefully reading the terms and conditions, nor would we purchase a property without going through the conveyancing process.
People are often forced to a move into care through infirmity or frailty. Nonetheless, it is important to assess whether the care home is appropriate and if the terms and conditions are not read carefully, a further move may be necessary, and this can be distressing.
Terms and conditions of a contract are extremely important and will set out what is included in the cost of care. If additional services are required these should be made clear. It is also important to check the situation regarding fee increases as, in the long term, this could have a detrimental affect on the occupant.
If you or an elderly relative need advice regarding access to health or social care provision then contact a member of our Elderly Care Team on 0345 209 1495.
If you are concerned about the quality of medical treatment given to yourself or a relative, contact a member of our Medical Negligence Team on 0345 209 1055.