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Social and Health Care

Volume 522: debated on Tuesday 25 January 2011

4. What steps he is taking to improve co-ordination of social care and health care for the benefit of patients. (35635)

We have set out in the White Paper “Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS” and the Health and Social Care Bill how we will deliver the coalition programme for Government commitment to promote greater integrated working. This includes local authorities taking the lead role in the future in joining up local NHS services, social care and health improvement via council-led health and well-being boards.

Can my hon. Friend assure me that there will be a joined-up approach when addressing patients’ interests and complaints when they straddle social care? Perhaps a single point of contact for a complaint would be a good step forward from what we have now.

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the need to integrate not only the way in which we deliver and plan services, but the way in which we manage complaints. That is why the Government have included in the Bill our proposals for the establishment of local healthwatch and healthwatch England. Local healthwatch will have the ability to deal with complaints and also have the capacity to refer concerns about services to the Care Quality Commission so that it can take the necessary steps to investigate. In that way, we will deliver a more integrated system for dealing with such complaints.

Is the Minister aware that most of us are in favour of much better co-ordination of these services, but we worry about the backdrop of the reforms? In Yorkshire, some doctors are saying, “Come on, guys, this is a bonanza and we will all be California-style millionaires under these reforms.” What sort of a backdrop is that for health care reforms and better co-ordination of services?

The backdrop that the hon. Gentleman has just painted is a rather thin one. In fact, it does not exist at all. The Government set out in the Bill we published last week that there will be clear responsibilities on GP commissioning consortia, working in partnership with their colleagues in local government, to commission services in ways that will improve quality of life for people in his constituency, my constituency and the constituencies of all hon. Members.

Does my hon. Friend agree that improved co-ordination between health and social care is fundamental to the delivery of the efficiency challenge faced by the health service and social services? Does he further agree that the £1 billion provided by the health service to reinforce that relationship is an important step taken by the Government to reinforce that interface? Can he assure the House that, as we move into the new world, the existing arrangements for good practice across that interface will be preserved?

The answer to all those questions is yes. The right hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to the additional money going into social care via the NHS. It is intended to kick-start the collaborative working that was often so absent under the previous Administration.

The care that someone gets can be defined as either “social care” or “health care”, and that can determine the benefits to which an individual is entitled. With that in mind, what conversations has the Minister had with the Minister with responsibility for disabled people about the Government’s proposal to withdraw mobility disability living allowance from those staying in residential care?

I and the Minister responsible for disability issues in the Department for Work and Pensions meet regularly. In fact, a further meeting on this and other matters is coming up shortly.