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Older People

Volume 573: debated on Tuesday 14 January 2014

We will ensure that everyone over the age of 75 has a named GP responsible for delivering proactive care for our most vulnerable older citizens in the best tradition of family doctors. Through our £3.8 billion better care fund, we are also merging the health and social care systems to provide more joined-up health and social care.

Dementia is a terrible blight for an increasing number of older people. Last week, I had the great privilege of opening Henffordd Gardens in Hereford, a supported living scheme that will allow dementia sufferers in my constituency to enjoy a better quality of life for longer and is a model of good practice for the country. Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating Herefordshire Housing and all those who have worked so hard to bring this plan to fruition?

I absolutely join my hon. Friend in congratulating Herefordshire Housing. One of the key things about people with dementia is that relatively small adjustments to their homes can make it possible for them to live at home healthily and happily for much longer under the care of a husband, wife or partner without having to go into residential care. Those are precious years that we should treasure and do everything we can to facilitate, so I am delighted that that is happening, and he will be pleased to know that, thanks to the Government’s initiative, it is happening all over the country.

Figures from the House of Commons Library show that £1.8 billion has been cut from social care budgets since 2010. Does not that imply that delayed discharge among older people will be driven upwards because the finances are just not there to look after them?

I think the figures the hon. Gentleman is talking about are efficiencies and not actual cuts. [Laughter.] Well, Members should look at the figures carefully. If they are the figures from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, that is what they will find. If the hon. Gentleman looks more specifically at the figures related to delayed discharges, he will find that, year on year, the number attributable to the social care system went down by 50,000 bed days in the last year.

One of the principal ways of promoting the health and well-being of older people in my constituency would be a rapid sign-off for the rebuild of the Townsland hospital complex. I recognise that the decision lies with NHS Property Services, but will the Secretary of State join me in using whatever influence we have to put pressure on it to get a move on?

I have spoken to my hon. Friend about the scheme, which sounds excellent. Obviously we want to encourage it, while working within the correct processes. The Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich (Dr Poulter), has agreed to meet him to do all we can to speed it along.

One of the things that some older people would like is to move closer to their families. Will the Secretary of State update me on what discussions he is having with the Scottish Government on the portability of home care packages across the border?

We are very keen to make home care packages much more portable. There are problems with home care packages across the board, particularly the 15-minute slots that, frankly, are completely unacceptable. We are definitely looking at that issue and I encourage the hon. Lady to talk to the Minister responsible for care services, my hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb), to get more details on the progress we are making.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman) is the most important single question facing the health and care system? Do not too many elderly people—the greatest single source of growing demand on the health and care system—experience our system not as a national health service but as a national illness service? Is not the challenge facing the system to ensure that, as people live longer, we enable them to get greater quality out of those extended life years?

As so often, my right hon. Friend encourages us to raise our heads above the horizon and to look forward. He is absolutely right. There will be 1 million people with dementia by 2020 and, as he knows, most of those will have other long-term conditions alongside dementia. The name of the game will be looking after people so they can live healthily at home, which will be the focus of health policy.

Regular social interaction and a comfortable home environment are critical to the health and physical and mental well-being of older people. Has the Secretary of State carried out any assessment across Government or within his own Department of the effect of cost of living pressures and cuts in local services on the home environment, and on older people?

We are very conscious of that, which is why we introduced the triple lock on pensions and protected pensioners from the brunt of the cuts that this Government, sadly, have had to make to deal with the deficit we inherited.

Dementia is the disease that people over the age of 50 say they fear the most and it is one of the biggest challenges for our society and for our health and social care systems. One of the ways to meet that challenge is through research, and the coalition Government is to be commended for the doubling of spending on research into dementia by 2015. However, it will take another decade, until 2025, for this Government or a future one to double it again. Will he reconsider that? Surely there needs to be greater ambition and greater pace to deliver the cures, the solutions and the prevention we need.

I commend my right hon. Friend for his work on dementia when he was working at the Department of Health. We are doing our bit as a country but we will not be able to do it on our own. Dementia is an incredibly difficult disease to crack, which is why, in December, the Prime Minister hosted a G8 summit to encourage other leading countries to increase their investment in dementia. We secured a commitment that they would significantly increase that investment and we want to encourage the private sector to do the same.