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Friday, July 21, 2006

The national homes swindle-a growing scandal

In March 2006, Panorama investigated how sick and elderly people are compelled unlawfully to sell their homes to pay for NHS care. The film prompted the biggest viewer response Panorama has ever had with 1,700 emails and 3,000 phone calls. So now we have investigated the stories you brought to us.

Anita Astle is the manager of Wren Hall Nursing Home in Nottingham and the director of the Nottinghamshire Care Home Association. She sent her email to express her own point of view after watching Panorama's first film on the website.

Out of all the emails we received we chose to feature the people who wrote these messages to Panorama and you can hear them tell their own stories in the film.

Anita's email "This is appalling. Older people paying for the privilege to be cared for whilst they deteriorate both physically and mentally and subsequently die. Reviewers are more concerned about the cost to the NHS than addressing the health needs of frail older people."

Lynne Cowley
Lynne Cowley's mother requires care and Lynne told Panorama that her experiences with her mother have made her question how vulnerable people are treated by the authorities. Her mother, Gladys, died while Panorama investigated her story at Lynne's request.

"They have tried to bully me, harass me at work for money and the final straw was when I saw the so-called assessment they did on mum. Fortunately I have worked in medical journalism. Even more fortunate I watched your programme.

My mum deserves better than this. She worked and paid in for care, and so did my late dad" who fought a war for this country. Mum has only got me to fight for her and she only has a few months to live. I want her last days to be as good as we can make them. This country owes her."

Linda Jones was writing a letter to Tony Blair about her uncle's care when she saw Panorama's first film.

"Please find attached below a copy of the letter I have sent to Mr Blair. I was in the process of writing this communication and then I saw your programme.

"Dear Mr Blair It is with great sadness that I write to you direct concerning my 79-year-old uncle.

"My uncle served his country during the war and paid all contributions during his working life, worked hard to pay-off his mortgage and to provide for his pension during his retirement. All the things your government encourages a good citizen to do.

"To date we have paid in excess of £45,000 in fees for uncaring services, believing we were doing our best. We have had the door slammed in our faces all the way.

"We have now sold the family home what more do you want us to do? What has happened to the National Insurance Contributions he paid all his life?"

Phil Shakespeare's mother Pauline requires care and he has started a campaign with details at

"Dear Panorama, I'm tired of having to keep fighting and fighting. The distress this is causing my family far outweighs the illness itself. I don't know who to trust anymore and it's getting harder to keep a lid on all this frustration! If mom was eligible then and in 2004 what's changed, certainly Mom hasn't improved, her dementia is very advanced, so SOMEONE has moved the goal posts. I have always felt I'm kept in the dark and isolated."
Read an NHS consultant's views about the 'scandalous way' older people are treated

Panorama received so many emails that unfortunately we could not follow up everyone's stories and film them.

Three members of the production team who worked on the first film read every single email and letter and chose cases for the follow up which they felt could illustrate some of the main areas of concern raised in the emails.

The distress, frustration and lack of confidence in the system of NHS continuing care is palpable from the following selection of messages.

The vast majority of the emails we received related the sadness and anguish that relatives experience during an already difficult time. The initial distress of moving a loved one into a care home was compounded by the realisation that the family home may have to be sold.


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