The NHS will have to pay out at least £180 million to people wrongly charged for nursing care.
Patients charged for long-term nursing and social care – at their own home or in a residential care home – from 1996 to 2004 have been able to have their cases reviewed if they feel they were overcharged.
This has lead to more than 12,000 claims, and 2,000 payouts at a total cost of £180 million.
The Health Service Ombudsman ruled in 2003 that the government’s guidance on the eligibility of patients for NHS-funded care places had been ‘misinterpreted and misapplied’ by some health authorities.
The result was that some elderly and disabled patients suffered ‘hardship and injustice’ by wrongly being asked to pay for their care needs.
A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘In about 2,000 cases, it was found that the decision not to award NHS funding had been incorrect. The NHS is currently reviewing around 1,300 cases and it is anticipated that these cases will be reviewed by 31 March.
Mervyn Kohler, from Help the Aged, said: ‘The government must bring about radical change, to transform our ailing social care system into one that is personalised, easy to understand, accessible and properly funded.’
Anyone who was wrongly charged had to submit an application to their local trust by November last year.
Help the Aged offers advice on care home fees on a helpline: 0500 767476.
A Which? report on choosing a care home found said there’s a postcode lottery on care funding, meaning that how much you pay depends on where you live in the UK.