Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A forgotten Spitfire hero

As a Spitfire pilot in the Second World War, John Mejor risked his life for his country, England. He went on to devote his working life to conservation, helping to preserve the nation’s heritage and landscape.

But in his hour of need, when he might have expected something in return, the state he gave so much to has forgotten him. The 88-year-old grandfather, who requires round-the-clock nursing at a home because of dementia and diabetes, has had the funding for his care withdrawn despite the advice of his GP.
His family now fear they will have to sell the house where his 94-year-old wife Cecile lives to cover the care home costs. On Thursday his daughter Sally Mejor, 54, said: ‘My father made great sacrifices for his country, he is a war hero and deserves better than this. I feel totally let down and hurt that he has been treated in this way.

Sally Mejor with father John Mejor, 88, is being forced to sell his house after the NHS withdrew full funding for his care.

‘It is a complete nightmare, a disgrace and an insult. He was, and still is, a very dignified man.’

Mr Mejor was moved from his house in Exmouth, Devon, to a care home 18 months ago because his family could no longer look after him following a series of mini-strokes.

At first his NHS Trust paid the £800-aweek costs at the nearby Linksway Care Home under its ‘continuing health care’ scheme. Mr Mejor was eligible for the scheme, which is not means tested, because of the assessment of his GP.
But now his health needs have been reviewed by a different doctor acting for the trust. Officials say he is no longer considered a ‘severe’ case and will only receive £106 per week towards his care.
Miss Mejor, however, says her father’s condition has not improved and his GP does not agree with the findings.

Miss Mejor, who lives at the family home in Exmouth as her mother’s full-time carer, said: ‘I cared for him myself for the first five years of his illness and if I could manage to continue I would. At no point was it said there would be any timeframe or, that should his condition improve, even slightly, it would be pulled from us.
‘If there was plenty of money to cover it, I would be willing and happy to pay. But because there isn’t, I have to stand up for him.’ 

Mr Mejor was born in Belgium but moved to Britain as a young boy and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery in the war. During a mission over Malta in 1942, in which he shot down German bombers, he was forced to bale out over the sea after his plane was hit – but returned to battle the very next day.

His last operational flight was on D-Day, and after the war he rose to the rank of wing commander, in charge of a squadron of Vampire fighters. He retired in 1964 and set up the Devon Conservation Forum and the Devon Historic Buildings Trust.

Mr Mejor flew a Spitfire like this one above in the Second World War during the battle for Malta

Miss Mejor said: ‘What worries me is the money we are going to have to find for his care is going to have an effect on my mother’s life.

‘I’m fearful for her future, too, because we’re going to have to sell this house and she very much wanted to spend the rest of her life here.’

The family could apply for the NHS to pay for the residential care, but this is means tested and it is highly likely they would be unsuccessful. A health care source said that because Mr Mejor’s health was thought to have improved, extra funding would be an issue of social care – such as help with washing and dressing – rather than health care. This would make it a matter for the local authority, not the NHS.
On Thursday NHS Devon said the cost of Mr Mejor’s care would still be covered while an appeal was heard. This could take several months.

Parveen Brown, who is responsible for continuing health care funding at NHS Devon, said: ‘There is no question of funding being suddenly cut off, or of houses having to be sold abruptly.

‘We deal with these issues as sensitively as we can and we will offer our support throughout.’

Means test rules in England state that anybody who has been assessed as ineligible for nursing care must pay for residential care if they have assets worth more than £23,000. Last month it was revealed that at least 3,000 elderly people a year are forced to sell their homes to pay for residential care. There are fears that cash-strapped health trusts will use public spending cuts as an excuse to reduce funding further in England.

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