THE group responsible for organising health services in the county has been told it must improve how it allocates funding to residents with ongoing health needs.

Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) was told it must address shortfalls in its means of allocating Continued Healthcare (CHC) funding by an independent NHS review panel earlier this month.

It comes after the Journal reported that hundreds of Wiltshire residents could be missing out on tens of thousands of pounds a year in funding.

Anyone with significant ongoing healthcare needs should automatically be assessed by the CCG for NHS funding of up to £78,000 a year to cover their medical and care costs.

But concerns were raised after the county was found to be in the bottom five per cent of England’s CCGs, making Wiltshire patients some of the least likely in the country to benefit from CHC funding.

Retired Rear Admiral Philip Mathias has just won a case against the CCG, after it failed to follow national policy when deciding if his mother, Joy, was eligible for the funding.

Following a two-year battle with the group, Philip was told by the independent panel that his mother should have received CHC funding but the eligibility criteria had not been correctly applied by the CCG, leaving her care costs to be paid by her family.

Now he is calling for the CCG to be held to account, and in a letter to the group’s senior management he said: “All the evidence now indicates that statistically you will have denied hundreds of Wiltshire residents the CHC funding to which they are legally entitled.

“In doing so, you will have taken advantage of old, frail and vulnerable people who are not fortunate enough to have someone like me, with the time, mental capacity and tenacity to support them in challenging a CCG which has a culture and record of avoiding CHC funding.

“It is an absolute disgrace.”

The panel reviewing his case found that Philip’s mother had a “primary health need” in two assessments undertaken by Wiltshire CCG, where they had found that she would not be eligible for funding.

The CCG must now complete a “thorough audit” of any patients who were initially screened as potential CHC recipients but may not have been taken forward to a full assessment due to “administrative errors”, as in the case of Philip’s mother, which the group only admitted when challenged. The group must also provide NHS England with an “improvement plan”.

Philip added: “I personally believe that there are clear grounds for Wiltshire CCG to be put under special measures, and for some elements of the senior management to be dismissed, or at the very least formally censured.

“Otherwise, it will probably soon all be forgotten and little will change. It is totally unacceptable that a publicly funded body should be allowed to act unlawfully and disadvantage so many people, and with such impunity.”

Philip previously raised concerns that a lack of central government funding was leading to fewer CHC payments in the county, after a letter from the group’s chairman in 2015 stated: “The CCG’s financial situation is dire.” A freedom of information showed that Wiltshire CCG spent £17million on CHC funding in 2015 to 2016, for 216 people.

A spokesman for the CCG said CHC funding was “a key aspect of focus” for the group and its partners involved in continuing healthcare. They did not comment on the decision by the independent panel, but said the CCG relies on frontline care providers to identify patients who could qualify for funding.