ALZHEIMER'S patients in York and North Yorkshire are being urged to campaign for their care costs to be met by the NHS.

Groups involved with older people say thousands of them throughout the country are being denied funding towards their care costs - cash which they may be legally entitled to.

In a landmark settlement earlier this month, the NHS agreed to pay back more than £50,000 to the family of Ruby Pearce, a woman with Alzheimer's disease.

Ruby's house had been sold by her family to meet her nursing home costs.

They were told that, although Ruby was incapable of doing anything for herself but chew and swallow, she did not qualify for NHS continuing care funding.

The Registered Nursing Home Association (RNHA) hopes that the case will lead to local NHS primary care trusts (PCTs), including North Yorkshire and York PCT, accepting the responsibility for meeting the cost of long-term care provided for Alzheimer's patients.

The RNHA's chief executive, Frank Ursell, said: "As a result of the decision, that Torbay Care Trust will now be repaying the nursing home fees that were originally funded from the sale of the home belonging to a patient with Alzheimer's disease, there is a chance that many other cases could be explored."

He added: "Anyone in Yorkshire and Humberside who has been having difficulty in getting their continuing care costs met by the NHS should consider seeking a review of their own case, in the light of the decision made in Torbay."

Jill Meyers, manager of the Selby and York branch of the Alzheimer's Society, said: "We believe that Alzheimer's and dementia should be treated as any other chronic disease or illness which makes patients dependent.

"We urge people who are concerned about their funding entitlement to get in touch with their local Alzheimer Society branch for advice."

She added: "People can get involved with our campaign to improve the support and rights of people with dementia and their carers by writing to their local MP, or phoning the Alzheimer's Society, on 01904799773."

A spokesman for North Yorkshire and York PCT said: "All of our continuing care clients are reviewed on an annual basis, often more frequently, to establish if their needs have changed.

"If they, their family or carers, believe circumstances have changed, they can ask for their case to be reviewed."

Patients are asked to contact the Patient Liaison Service for the area of North Yorkshire in which they live.

Earlier this month, York MP Hugh Bayley presented a petition to Parliament, signed by 600 people with Alzheimer's, and their friends and family.

They want the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to reverse a decision not to provide three drugs on the NHS to people in the early stages of the disease.