Daughter wins battle with NHS over Alzheimer mum's £30,000 nursing fees so why did they then want her gagged? An exclusive by Brian Radford and David Jeffs.
Battling Pauline Hardinges won a £30,000 refund from National Health Service bosses who refused to fund 24-hour / 7 day a week care for her Alzheimer's mum - but she had to defy a gagging order to announce the victory.
Pauline spent months fighting red tape before getting the payout to cover the bills she'd paid for 95-year-old Dorothy. But when health chiefs finally gave in, they made her sign a secrecy agreement. And she's convinced they did it to stop relatives of other dementia victims finding out they could also claim refunds. Furious Pauline, 65, said: "When I took the matter up with the primary care trust I was told it was to stop me speaking to the media. I was appalled - I wanted everyone suffering from this horrendous disease, or looking after someone with it, to know they can claim for every penny of nursing care from the Government." She added: "There was no way I was going to keep my mouth shut, so I told my neighbour and he claimed for £130,000 for his dad's care - and got the lot." Pauline, of Looe, Cornwall, had turned to the NHS when she ended up in hospital with stress after giving up a restaurant job to care for her mother for five years. But health chiefs ruled Dorothy's needs were "social" not medical and Pauline was forced to plunder her life savings to pay for a nursing home. She said: "I was paying for medical care I believed she was entitled to, so I stopped - and was threatened with court. "Then a website said the Government was carrying out a retrospective review into nursing care and I asked about funding for my mum. The NHS were dreadful and kept putting up obstacles - but they finally told me my mother should have been fullyfunded from the beginning. They'd hidden the fact government money was available. To cheat sick and elderly people is outrageous." Pauline added: "When I was refunded the £30,000 I signed the confidentiality contract under duress. "But I couldn't have lived with myself by not speaking out. Even if one family gets help as a result of reading my story it will have been worth it." Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Primary Care Trust defended the gagging order. An official said: "This standard clause has been in place for some years." But Neil Hunt, of the Alzheimer's Society, said: "Thousands of families face astronomical care bills. The system needs to be more transparent and fair." For further advice, call 0207 423 3500 or log on to www.alzheimers.org.uk