Continuing care at home during convalescence: Sue Fieldman looks at the cover provided for help after hospital

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AN insurance policy that provides nursing care at home during convalescence is launched this week by Saga.

The care could be assistance with dressing, washing or even doing the shopping. There is also a cash alternative.

The Saga Convalescent Care Plan is available to people aged over 55. The premium is pounds 6 a month for a person between 55 and 59 or pounds 10.80 for a married couple. The amount of cash and support depends on the time spent in hospital. The policy pays the minimum benefit of seven days' care support or pounds 250 cash after day-case surgery or a hospital stay of two nights.

The maximum benefit - payable after in- patient treatment of more than 21 days or a big operation - is pounds 1,500 or 60 days of care support.

Care support is nominally for three hours a day, but the 21 hours per week can be juggled to suit the patient. Prime Health has links with nursing agencies and will organise a professional helper.

However, there is an exclusion for convalescence after chronic or incurable conditions, and mental and nervous illnesses. Pre- existing conditions are also initially excluded, although they will be covered at a later date if certain conditions are met.

Not only the elderly find they have no one to care for them when they come out of hospital. John Young, a spokesman for Prime Health, which devised the scheme for Saga, said: 'We have no doubt someone will pinch our idea and go down the age spectrum.'

Western Provident Association, the third- largest medical fees insurer, already has a Home Independence Scheme available to young and old. It offers home nursing care during convalescence but no cash alternative.

Treatment can be in an NHS or a private hospital, but it must be for a minimum of four days before convalescence benefits are paid.

Unlike Saga, where the premium entitles the patient to all the benefits, WPA's customers elect to pay a premium that provides a certain number of days' convalescent cover.

For seven days' nursing the premium for an individual is pounds 44.15 a year. For 35 days' care the cost rises to pounds 71.75. There are no age bands until 60. A 60-year-old would pay pounds 46.95 and pounds 78.60 respectively.

David Ashdown of WPA said: 'More people are looking at the policy as the NHS hospitals in particular want them out as soon as possible. People like to know that they can get nursing at home if they need it.'

Before you buy a convalescence policy, check the terms of your medical fees insurance. Most of the standard policies provide some cover.

However, it frequently relates to true nursing care rather than help with the shopping. Unlike the Saga policy, the medical fees insurers usually insist on a specialist confirming that home nursing is needed. This requirement also applies to the WPA Home Independence policy.

For people in a company medical fees scheme the benefits may be more generous. Bupa, for example, in its big company schemes for more than 100 employees, provides care-support services.

(Photograph omitted)

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