The CMA’s action to stop us offering families the option of placing their loved ones in a premium home by making a personal contribution in addition to NHS funding is a backwards step in terms of consumer choice.
The number of families this affects within Care UK has always been very small and as such, we agreed to settle with the CMA to enable us to focus on the more pressing challenges facing the sector at present.
Over the period we offered this option, Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) were supportive of having access to additional homes, and the small number of families involved welcomed the additional choice it provided. In light of unclear NHS guidance and the widespread nature of these fees across the sector, we reject the CMA’s suggestion that they were unfair.
In reaching this settlement, we do not accept that we have breached any rules or misled anyone taking a place with us. We have done our best to be transparent with all involved, and as these fees are common practice with a great many other care home providers, we are at a loss to understand why the CMA has singled out Care UK. We look forward to seeing how they will apply the principles associated with this action consistently across the sector and whether other providers will also be asked to repay the fees they have collected. We trust the CMA and the NHS will now make every effort to clarify what is currently very unclear guidance which both care home providers and CCGs are interpreting in a wide variety of ways.
CCGs have long recognised that many people who would otherwise be in hospital want a wider range of choice than modest public sector budgets are able to provide. In this context, and with their support, we enabled residents receiving Continuing Healthcare (CHC) funding and their families to pay an enhanced fee for services not covered by the NHS. This enabled families the option of securing a room in one of our premium homes and those who took up this option were pleased to be able to provide an additional level of comfort to their loved one. The enhanced fee covered a range of benefits enjoyed by residents in a premium setting including spacious ensuite rooms, on-site facilities such as cafes and cinemas, a wide range of lifestyle activities and a premium dining experience. These families always had the option of more modest, fully funded homes as an alternative.
Under the terms of the settlement, we are now identifying those residents, or their personal representatives, who will be entitled to have a portion of these enhanced fees returned to them. This only affects a very small number of people in receipt of CHC funding who have also paid an enhanced fee in one of our premium homes since October 2015. This settlement has no impact on those who fully fund their own care home place, those who have care home fees fully paid by a local council, or those who have chosen to make a personal contribution above and beyond local authority fees in order to place their loved one in a premium home.
Our customer team will contact anyone affected in November as per the timetable agreed with the CMA. In the meantime, we would ask families to kindly direct any urgent questions that can’t wait to our finance team rather than our care teams. This can be done via: CHC.firstname.lastname@example.org.”