Following a rise in complaints from self-funders about Funded Nursing Care (FNC), the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has recently published guidance for social care providers to help them provide clear cost information to service users.
Key messages in the guidance include:
a) New residents should receive a clear written contract which sets out what happens to FNC payments;
b) Operators’ information about fees must be clear and in writing;
c) You must be able to evidence that you have given information about fees to prospective residents;
d) You must tell people about fee increases in the contract and write to them in advance of an increase being made;
e) Inconsistences or ambiguities about FNC could result in the Ombudsman recommending refunds, apologies or changes in your procedure.
In light of this guidance, the Government’s response to the CMA’s Care Homes Market Study and the increasing media spotlight on consumer issues in this sector, to minimise the risk of disputes and the associated financial and reputation costs of these, operators should:
1. Review the terms of their existing contracts to ensure they are complying with consumer law and relevant guidance; and
2. Review their procedures for the provisions of information to residents, particularly in relation to costs and what happens when fees change for any reason.
Our team can help protect your business by:
- reviewing your contracts to see if they are compliant with current law and relevant guidance;
- advising you on steps you can take to minimise disputes with residents; and
- supporting and advising you on any disputes to minimise any adverse financial and regulatory consequences.
Care providers can now download new guidance from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman to help them provide clearer cost information in their contracts for service users. Based on learning from its investigations, the Ombudsman’s guide offers good practice on how to approach Funded Nursing Care (FNC) payments and ensure contracts properly reference them. The guidance explains the Ombudsman’s approach to handling complaints about funding where FNC payments are involved, along with links to other resources which may be of help.