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30 April 2015 | Comment | Article by Lisa Morgan

Multiple Sclerosis and NHS Continuing Healthcare

27 April to 3 May is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week. This week not only aims to raise awareness of this disease, which currently affects over 100,000 people in the UK alone, but also seeks to highlight the importance of specialist services and access to proper care for those suffering with multiple sclerosis, providing as much information as possible.

What is multiple sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis is a disease affecting the central nervous system, the brain and spinal cord; it is usually diagnosed when the sufferer is in their 20s and 30s. The symptoms of multiple sclerosis are many and varied, with each sufferer’s multiple sclerosis being different. The range of symptoms can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Balance problems
  • Bladder symptoms
  • Bowel symptoms
  • Cognition and cognitive symptoms
  • Concentration problems
  • Depression
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Foot drop/dropped foot
  • Hearing problems
  • Heat sensitivity
  • Memory problems
  • Muscle weakness
  • Optic neuritis
  • Pain
  • Paroxysmal symptoms
  • Pins and needles sensation
  • Sensory symptoms
  • Sexual issues
  • Spasms
  • Spasticity
  • Speech problems
  • Swallowing problems
  • Tremors
  • Trigeminal neuralgia
  • Vertigo
  • Visual problems
  • Visuospatial perception problems
  • Walking difficulties
  • Weakness

Multiple sclerosis is a non-fatal disease but each sufferer’s multiple sclerosis varies in its length and symptoms, which can also vary in their severity. Multiple sclerosis is not curable and, like many diseases, worsens over time reaching its peak around the senior years of a sufferer’s life. This is why raising awareness and seeking treatment and support at as young an age as possible is vital, as is ensuring appropriate care is provided to those elderly sufferers for whom the disease is at its worst. For many elderly multiple sclerosis sufferers this can mean that, due to the symptoms of their multiple sclerosis and the complications it can cause to other age related problems they may have, appropriate care can only be provided within a care home environment or by carers within their own homes.

For those elderly multiple sclerosis sufferers who currently, or are due to, reside in a care home, or who receive private care within their own homes, funding may be available from the NHS.

What funding is available?

NHS Continuing Healthcare is care outside of a hospital, arranged and fully funded by the NHS. The eligibility criteria are lengthy and complex but, in essence, full funding is available to people whose needs are primarily for health care as opposed to social care and assistance with daily living.

As the symptoms and severity of MS can vary, even during a person’s senior years, a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis does not automatically indicate that a person will be eligible for NHS Continuing Healthcare or “fully funded care”. This is because the NHS does not just consider the disease and medical conditions a person in care is suffering, but rather the impact they have on them and the level and type of care they require as a result. So a multiple sclerosis sufferer due to, or currently residing in, a care home or receiving care at home, may be eligible for this full funding if their symptoms, together with any other medical conditions or care needs, mean that a high level of care is required to manage them.

Ultimately, it is the totality of a person’s care and medical needs that will determine whether they are eligible for full funding but, for those suffering with multiple sclerosis and its varying symptoms, it would certainly be in their interest to request that the appropriate assessments should be conducted, particularly as they may well be entitled to this funding which would mean that they and their families can focus on ensuring they have the appropriate treatment and support without having to worry about funding the appropriate care in the appropriate setting.

So what should I do now?

As this is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Week, now is the time to ensure that anyone who thinks they or a relative may be suffering with multiple sclerosis, and those with relatives currently suffering, no matter what age, educate themselves as much as possible, familiarise themselves with the treatments available, speak with their GP and review the many, helpful multiple sclerosis charity websites dedicated to providing advice and support for multiple sclerosis sufferers, links for some of which are provided below. And for those with an elderly relative, currently in or soon to enter care, suffering from multiple sclerosis, to seek further information as to NHS continuing healthcare funding.

By completing a simple and straightforward questionnaire providing some details as to the multiple sclerosis sufferer’s overall health and care needs, we can advise you as to whether there are reasonable prospects of success for claiming fully funded care and, should you choose to proceed with the claim, to manage this on your behalf.

Useful links

Multiple Sclerosis Trust

National Multiple Sclerosis Society

Author bio

Lisa Morgan is a Partner and Head of the Nursing Care department. She is regarded as an experienced and specialist solicitor leading in the niche area of continuing healthcare.

She has been instrumental in developing a niche legal department in Hugh James, which comprises of 40 fee earners who solely act for the elderly and families in recovering wrongly paid nursing fees.

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