Letter: Off-budget care

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Sir: The decision to compensate the family of the man who had a stroke for costs incurred when he was discharged from long-term care ('NHS faces financial time bomb over care,' 3 February) is very welcome. Most people are still under the illusion that if you are clearly sick, you are entitled to care from the health service, free at the point of delivery. Many other elderly carers find themselves blackmailed into funding alternative care because the hospital, concentrating on its budget and 'patient through-put', finds long- term patients a heavy drain on resources.

Many more families find themselves providing care at home - often given by an equally frail elderly spouse - for someone who is clearly in need of time in hospital. 'Community care' in these circumstances has a hollow ring, but as caring at home is hidden from view, no one measures the cost to the carers. This care does not appear in the hospital budget and that, in these days of the market, seems to be all that is important.

Yours faithfully,



Carers' National Association

London, EC1