Going into Hospital and Your Rights
If your loved one is taken to hospital it can be an anxious time for you both whatever their financial situation. If however they rely on state benefits, you need to be aware that these may be affected.
Attendance Allowance and Disability Living AllowanceAttendance Allowance and Disability Living Allowance (care component) are suspended after 28 days in hospital. If your loved one gets one of these benefits and is going into hospital, inform the Disability Living Allowance and Attendance Allowance helpline straight away. Call it on 0845 7123 456 if you live in England, Scotland or Wales. If in Northern Ireland, call the Disability and Carer’s Service on 028 9090 6178 (for Attendance Allowance) or 028 9090 6182 (for Disability Living Allowance). Remember to inform them when you know that your loved one is going to be discharged from hospital so that the benefits can be reinstated.
Carer’s AllowanceIf you are claiming Carer’s Allowance, you may be able to continue to receive it for up to 12 weeks out of a 26-week period; this will depend on how long you have been a carer and whether you have had a break within the last 26 weeks. If your loved one has to go into respite care, your Carer’s Allowance will stop after four weeks. For more information on this, call the Carer’s Allowance Unit on 01253 856123 (or call the Disability and Carer’s Service on 028 9090 6186 if you are in Northern Ireland).
A Patients’s Rights in HospitalAll patients have a legal right to a reasonable standard of care and treatment from hospital staff to include:
- Respect for privacy, dignity and religious and cultural beliefs;
- Respect for confidentiality;
- A clean and safe hospital environment; and
- A named nurse in charge of their care with name badges to be worn by all staff.
A Patient’s Right to InformationYour loved one has the right to have any treatment, including the risks and any alternatives, clearly explained before they agree to it. Doctors should reply fully and truthfully to any questions asked unless they think it is in the patient’s best interest not to. This is rare and if your loved one thinks that they are not being told enough, this is probably due to poor communication rather than any deliberate attempt to withhold information. All patients have the right to see their medical records, although they do not have the automatic right to see written records that were made before November 1991.
Your Rights to Information About Your Loved OneIf the person you care for is perceived by the hospital staff as competent and makes clear that they do not want you or others to be informed about their health that is their right. Only if the medical profession think that observing the confidentiality of your loved one would put either their health or that of someone else at risk, can they disclose any information if they have been asked not to. Most likely though, your loved one will be anxious that you are as informed about their condition as they are. Nevertheless, when you visit them in hospital and make an appointment to speak to their doctor, always include them if at all possible. After all, it is their health, well-being and quality of life that is being discussed and it is their decisions that should take precedence, not yours. But, if your loved one’s illness has made them confused or unable to effectively communicate, it is advisable to have previously discussed with them their preferences with regard to medical intervention.
A Patient’s Right to Refuse TreatmentAnyone is normally free to refuse any treatment or medication as long as they understand what this refusal will mean. A doctor can only examine and treat someone without their consent in certain circumstances: for example, if they are:
- Unconscious and cannot indicate their wishes;
- Detained under the Mental Health Act; or
- Temporarily incapable of giving consent: for example, due to drugs or alcohol.
If you have Lasting Powers of Attorney for your loved one, it will be your decision whether or not they should receive a course of medical treatment. If your loved one is very ill, this can be an enormously difficult decision to make and is hopefully something that you will have discussed together previously.