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Elderly (Day Care)

Volume 181: debated on Tuesday 20 November 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will publish the number of day care places per 1,000 of the elderly and very elderly population, by individual local authorities.

This information was published last July. A copy was placed in the Library.

In view of that almost inadequate reply, will the Minister examine the responses from Labour-controlled county and shire councils and those from Tory-controlled county and shire councils? He will find that Labour-controlled county councils provide a far better service for the elderly. Does he understand that the Royal College of Nursing has expressed concern about inadequate transport arrangements and respite care, as well as the inadequacy of provision for those who live in rural areas?

I did not give every figure, because the hon. Gentleman asked for a figure for every local authority in England and Wales which would have taken some time to read to the House. He asked whether I am aware of the development of the service. He may know that the total number of day care places has risen by nearly 30 per cent. in 12 years and that the resources available to the Northumberland social services departments has risen by 55 per cent. in real terms in 12 years. The way that those resources are used is a matter for social services departments.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the most important thing is to ensure that old people can get about rather than be in day care? Is my hon. Friend aware that, unfortunately, elderly people in south Devon are hobbling about because the chiropody service has been cut and fewer sessions are available? Will my hon. Friend have a word with the chairman of the area health authority and say that before it cuts services at the sharp end, it should have a look at its own bureaucracy?

My hon. Friend is right to highlight the importance of chiropody services. They constitute an important part of proper community care. The exact prioritisation in an area is a matter for the health authority.

Does the Minister accept that as a result of the Government's postponement of their community care programme the number of day care places in the community may be declining? Is he aware that in Birkenhead, for example, the Vincent Harkness day care centre will be closing? What message would the Minister like me to take home to my constituents who may have only one choice—going into residential care—as a result of the Government's postponement of their plans?

I have already said that we recognise the importance of day care places and welcome the fact that over the past 12 years there has been an increase of 30 per cent. in their availability. They are a vital part of any proper community care policy. I do not accept that the phased introduction of community care need have a direct impact on the availability of places or on the way in which social services departments continue to use resources already at their disposal.