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The person you care for may qualify for NHS continuing healthcare if they have significant ongoing physical or mental health needs arising from a disability, accident or illness.

NHS continuing healthcare provides free care for adults at home, in a care home or in a hospice – but not in hospital. 

See what is NHS continuing healthcare? on NHS Choices.

NHS continuing healthcare is available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Scotland NHS continuing healthcare was replaced by Hospital Based Complex Clinical Care which is only available to people in hospital.

What will NHS continuing healthcare pay for?

If the person you care for qualifies for NHS continuing healthcare they will have a care and support package that best meets their needs. This plan will say if they are going to be cared for at home or in a care home. You, and the person you care for, will have the chance to say what you would like to happen; for example, if there is a particular care home that you prefer.
NHS continuing healthcare will pay:

  • all the costs for care at home.  This includes nursing care and personal care (washing and dressing). 
  • all care home fees, including the cost of accommodation

NHS continuing healthcare is free. The care is paid for and arranged by the NHS, rather than your local council. The way the NHS is run is different in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Exactly what is included and who can apply will be discussed with the person you care for, and you, if they are being considered for it.

​Who can get NHS continuing healthcare?

To get NHS continuing healthcare you need to be an adult and have significant ongoing health needs – called a primary health need.

This is likely to mean a complex medical condition requiring lots of care and support, such as highly specialised nursing support. Someone approaching the end of their life is also likely to qualify if they have a condition that may be terminal.
NHS Choices has more detailed information about who qualifies for NHS continuing healthcare.

How to apply for NHS continuing healthcare?

A team of healthcare professionals will assess the person you care for and decide if they qualify for NHS continuing healthcare. They will look at the help they need rather than at their diagnosis or condition. This is likely to happen:

  • when someone leaves hospital
  • after rehabilitation when a condition is unlikely to improve
  • if someone’s health gets worse and they may no longer get enough support
  • when nursing needs are reviewed
  • if someone is approaching the end of their life

Find out how will my eligibility for NHS continuing healthcare be assessed?
You don’t need to apply for NHS continuing healthcare but you should ask about it if you think the person you care for should have been offered it and hasn’t been. You can talk to staff at the hospital or rehabilitation centre, a GP or a member of the social work team about NHS continuing healthcare.
If the person you care for does not qualify then they will be referred to their local council who may be able to offer support, but there may be a cost for this. Make sure you ask for a carer’s assessment so that the support you need is also considered.

Age UK has detailed information and leaflets about NHS continuing healthcare.

NHS Continuing Healthcare Information and Advice Service in England

NHS England fund a service providing free independent information and advice to help you understand the eligibility criteria and navigate the assessment, appeals and review processes.

A social enterprise called Beacon provides this service, and you can find more information on the Beacon website or call them on: 0345 548 0300. They also have a free Toolkit of information available to download.

Hospital Based Complex Clinical Care in Scotland

This new scheme helps people stay in their own home for longer, even if they need a lot of care.

The person you care for will be assessed to see if their care needs can be met at home or in a care home. A long term hospital stay will only be the last resort.

Find out more about Hospital Based Complex Clinical Care on the careinfoscotland website.

Next update due: June 2017