Continuing healthcare is a policy in Northern Ireland which relates to the current assessment of whether a person’s needs are primarily health care related or social care related. The determination of the assessment can impact on whether a person is required to make a contribution to their cost of care.

In June 2017, the Department of Health issued a consultation to review the current continuing healthcare policy in Northern Ireland and the outcome of this consultation was published in February of 2021 setting out the new policy of the ‘single criteria question’.

This now means that anybody applying for continuing health care is assessed by answering the single eligibility criteria question of:

‘Can your care needs be met properly in any other setting other than a hospital?’

If the answer is yes, then the individual would be discharged to the appropriate care setting and the relevant charging policy would apply.

This means that anybody, even those with complex medical conditions, with assets worth more than £23, 250, would need to pay for their own continuing healthcare.

The Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland, Eddie Lynch, has successfully obtained granted leave of the Court to challenge the Trust together with Department of Health on the Continuing Health Care policy in Northern Ireland.

He said: “I share the concerns of many older people about the Continuing Healthcare scheme in Northern Ireland, both the new policy adopted by the Department of Health in February 2021 and the operation of its predecessor, which remains in place for applications pre-dating February 2021.

“Having a single eligibility criteria question essentially means that no one in Northern Ireland would be eligible for continuing healthcare funding as the majority of care needs can be met in a care home and consequently Northern Ireland would remain devoid of continuing healthcare.

“My office has been contacted by many individuals over the past number of years in relation to the unfairness of the continuing healthcare policy. I am taking this Judicial Review on the basis of a client in his 70s who has complex medical needs and who has been refused continuing healthcare funding. This issue disproportionately affects older people and I am seeking the view of the Court on the reasonableness of this policy.”

A full hearing date for the Judicial Review is listed for June 2022.