NHS continuing healthcare, also known as CHC, is a package of ongoing health and social care which is arranged and paid for solely by the NHS. It is available if you live in England or Wales and are assessed as having a ‘primary health need’ – which is defined as having long-term complex health needs which cannot be met by social services. Eligibility is based on an assessment of your overall day-to-day care needs rather than on a particular diagnosis or condition, such as MS. Continuing healthcare, unlike funding from a local authority, is not means tested.
Continuing healthcare is only available for adults, there is a different system in place for children and young people known as continuing care.
NHS continuing healthcare can be provided in a variety of settings outside hospital, for example, it might be in your own home in the form of nursing visits or could cover care home fees. The care package provided is reviewed regularly to make sure it still meets your needs. If your needs change, your eligibility may change.
The criteria for accessing CHC are very strict, and funding varies by region. If you think you might be eligible for CHC you will need to check with your local integrated care board (England) or health board (Wales). If you have an urgent clinical need, such as at the end of life, your clinician should be able to do a fast-track application for CHC so you can move quickly and comfortably onto an appropriate care package.
If you’re not eligible for CHC you may be referred to social services who will assess your care and support needs and determine how much you should contribute to your care.
Continuing healthcare is also available in Northern Ireland, but historically access has been inconsistent across the region due to a lack of clear eligibility criteria. Following a consultation period, a new process is currently being implemented and new guidance is being developed.
In Scotland, there are different care arrangements, known as Hospital Based Complex Clinical Care (HBCCC).