Finally, Government action on 'hidden' care home fees
Care homes must reveal "hidden charges" – including fees levied after death – or face a raft of new rules to protect patients and their families, the Government has said.
The measures were announced in the Government's official response to a damning report by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) that was published at the start of the year.
It revealed how many care providers continued to charge fees after patients had died – in some cases for up to a month.
Care group Maria Mallaband abolished the fees as a result, but many of its competitors are still charging the families of deceased patients. In addition to residential costs, some care homes have charged "nursing" fees despite there being no one to nurse.
Telegraph Money has also revealed how companies charge up-front "administration fees" when residents enter care homes. In the worst cases, people have been charged admin fees and after-death fees for what ended up being a very short stay in the home.
The Government has not gone as far as saying it would ban fees of this sort – but has said it may force legal changes if care homes continue to hide charges.
Caroline Dinenage, the care minister, said: "While there are lots of examples of great businesses out there, far too many care home residents have been subject to hidden fees.
"The measures we announced this week will put the power back into the hands of residents and their families. However, if improvements are not seen we won't hesitate to change the law to strengthen protections so people can be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve."
The Government has also said it will work with the industry and the CMA to improve standards across the care sector.
Last year, the average cost of nursing care surpassed £1,000 a week for the first time. Britain's care funding system is under increasing pressure from the ageing population and local authority funding cuts in the wake of the financial crisis.
Care home operators, particularly in areas with few "self-funding" residents, are battling to stay afloat. Council-funded patients are less profitable to homes because councils can haggle for lower fees.
Under current rules, the state can step in to meet care costs when an individual's assets fall below £23,500.
Prime Minister Theresa May proposed fundamental reforms ahead of last year's general election which would have addressed some of these issues. But the plans, dubbed the "dementia tax", backfired and have been viewed as one of the reasons the Conservatives failed to win an overall majority.
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