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Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Ministers urged to speed up efforts to reform health and social care

Written by The Press Association

Conservative MPs have pressed ministers to speed up efforts to reform health and social care, with the existing system labelled a "complete mess" for patients.

Former communities minister Mark Prisk said changes are needed to stop "budgetary arguments" coming before the needs of patients.

Fellow Tory Peter Bone (Wellingborough) suggested MPs from different parties develop a new approach to social care while Jake Berry said carers in his Rossendale and Darwen constituency feel "frustrated" at being "constantly under financial pressure".

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid (pictured) told the Commons that work is ongoing to ensure the resources available to adult social care are "adequate" while councils can also make reforms.

Mr Javid claimed before Christmas that almost £900 million extra will be available to local authorities over the next two years to fund social care services amid warnings of a "crisis".

Speaking in the Commons, Conservative Mr Prisk (Hertford and Stortford) said many of his constituents believe the "fundamental problem" is the separation of healthcare funding and social care provision in too many cases.

He told Mr Javid: "It makes no sense to my constituents and increasingly little to me.

"Could I, therefore, urge you to speed up the integration of health and social provision so we can actually deal with patients' needs in the round and put those first, and not budgetary arguments."

Mr Javid replied: "You make a very important point and that is when it comes to adult social care it's not all about money.

"Of course, money and resources have a huge role to play.

"It's also about how those services are delivered and we've seen from many councils where they are able to approach that integration in a better way that they have seen significant efficiencies, and I think we can all learn from that."

Mr Bone added: "Further to what (Mr Prisk) said, I couldn't agree more.

"I guess most members have had in their constituency surgery somebody who desperately needs help.

"The local government agree they need help - social care - and the health services agrees they need help - social care - but the health service and local government blame each other and it becomes a complete mess.

"Would it not be a good idea, on a cross-party basis, to look at a new model for social care?"

Mr Javid replied: "You are right to point that out, I see many situations like that myself in my own constituency, but also you highlight the need for all of us to talk about this issue and see what we can do working together."

Tory Jake Berry said he shared the frustrations over funding felt by carers in his area.

He asked Mr Javid: "Would you look at what can be done about increasing funding for social care in addition to what we've already done, and making sure that is subject to a cast-iron ring-fence to make sure it goes where it's needed most?"

Mr Javid replied: "I can assure you that we will continue to look at the resources applied to adult social care, both from local councils and from central government, to make sure that they are adequate.

"Also, we will continue to push the case for reform to also make sure all councils realise there's more that can be done besides just more funding."

Labour's Clive Betts, chairman of the Communities and Local Government Committee, called for a review to resolve issues over plans to allow councils to keep 100% of all business rates raised locally.

He said: "One of the major details that does need resolution is that in the future the demand for adult social care is likely to grow more quickly than the growth in business rates.

"Do you, therefore, recognise that as well as having 100% retention of business rates, local authorities are going to need additional funding for adult social care and will you agree to a review to look at that?"

Mr Javid noted there is a need for longer-term reform which the Government is "taking very seriously".

He later said he would look at higher charges set to hit hospitals after Conservative Julian Lewis (New Forest East) raised concerns over a re-evaluation of rates for Southampton General Hospital.

Mr Lewis asked: "Does the new system allow local authorities any discretion as regards to business rates levied on hospitals like Southampton Hospital, which following a re-evaluation faces a rather large increase in business rates?"

Mr Javid replied: "It does allow some discretion to councils but I don't think for hospitals it will apply.

"It will apply to businesses but only in one direction, but it is something that since you have made the point I will take a further look."

Tory Huw Merriman (Bexhill and Battle) suggested changes for care homes should be considered at the same time as adult social care.

He said: "Given that so much of the funding for adult social care goes towards care homes, and given that so many care homes are failing their CQC inspections, would the ministerial team consider wrapping in care home reform into the adult social care reform that's being announced?

"And, in particular, would they consider requiring local authorities to build new care homes just like they have to build schools and GP surgeries?"

Local Government Minister Marcus Jones replied: "I thank you for your constructive suggestions and we are always willing to listen to constructive suggestions.

"You may be aware that the Department of Health is looking very carefully at the way care homes are provided, particularly in terms of the regulation and the role of the CQC."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) PA Wire.