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Social Care

Volume 548: debated on Tuesday 17 July 2012

The White Paper introduces new measures to help us to deliver better quality services and to improve the care that people experience, including through greater transparency, with new provider quality profiles and new care audits. It also clarifies what quality in care and support means, by setting out principles, standards, roles and responsibilities for driving up the quality of care. The White Paper makes it clear that we will rule out crude commissioning by the minute, which turns care workers into clock-watchers, and that we will work with commissioners, care providers and people who use services and carers in order to bring to an end commissioning practices that undermine people’s dignity and choice.

I recently visited Ashton Lodge residential home in Dunstable, and I was delighted to hear from the residents how kind the staff were. Occasionally, however, I get letters from constituents detailing simply unacceptable levels of care for their family in residential homes. How can we involve local communities more so they take a role in ensuring that all residential homes have consistently high standards of care?

I am grateful for that question. Indeed, one of the issues set out in the White Paper is the collaboration by the Department of Health and others with leaders in the care sector to make sure that care homes become much more embedded as part of their local communities and much more genuinely open to their local communities—working with local schools and working with HealthWatch, which will have powers of entry to work with those care homes as well. By turning the spotlight on in a benign way, making sure that all care homes are more open to their public, I think we can significantly improve quality.

In parallel with the social care budget, do the Government see a strong role for GPs to look at prevention—putting in special monitoring as people get older to ensure that we stay younger and fitter for longer?

Indeed we do. We identify in the White Paper the fact that there has been a postcode lottery for many years when it comes to access to primary care in our care home sector. The White Paper sets out how to ensure that we begin to eradicate that postcode lottery. By establishing a national commissioning board to commission primary care, we can ensure greater consistency in the future.

What conversations has the Minister had with his counterpart in Northern Ireland in respect of protecting the high standards of residential and nursing care that already exist for the people in Northern Ireland?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her question. Indeed, officials in my Department are in close contact with officials in all the devolved Administrations to make sure that we share best practice across the nations so that we drive up the quality of care for all.

Only last week, the Secretary of State said about care:

“The…number of delayed discharges is broadly the same as it was last year and, I believe, from memory, the year before—I will correct the record if not.”—[Official Report, 11 July 2012; Vol. 548, c. 322.]

Figures published by his own Department show the number of delayed days is up by 18% in the last year and 29% since August 2010. Are Ministers completely out of touch with reality, or would the Minister now like to correct the record?

Of course what the hon. Gentleman omits to mention in seeking to give an impression is this: the implication is that social services are not coping with delayed discharges and are the principal cause of them, but the figures do not bear that proposition out. [Interruption.] Indeed, the extra investment the Government are making in reablement services means that discharges in this area are being assisted and improving—[Interruption.]

Order. The question has been asked, and the Minister is giving his answer. Members may like it or dislike it, but they have a duty to listen to it with courtesy. While I am about it, let me emphasise that there is far too much sedentary noise coming from both Front-Bench teams. I think that the Minister has finished his answer; we are grateful to him.