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Concerns about the Care Bill

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17 December 2013
Care Bill speech Last night I spoke in the Second Reading Debate of the Government’s Care Bill.

Whilst the Bill is a step towards creating a better social care system in this country, it is far from the answer to the country’s care crisis that is needed. The Bill’s proposals to cap catastrophic care costs and to raise the threshold that an individual’s family can keep after paying for care should be welcomed. However, I have deep reservations that the cap does not cover all care costs. 

In my speech, I shared my own family’s experience of the care system through the huge costs involved in ensuring my late Nan received the care she needed in the last few years of her life. I believe the complexity of the process for valuing people’s assets and calculating their personal contribution means many people will still end up paying significant amounts of money.  I am also concerned that the Bill does not address the full scale of the financial challenges of the care crisis, and that it will be local councils who are made to pick up the tab.

I also focussed my remarks on my deep concerns about Clause 118 of the Bill – a clause which was introduced by the Government in the House of Lords at the time of the Court of Appeal ruling regarding Lewisham Hospital. The Clause relates to the powers of Trust Special Administrators and would enable the Government in future do what they were told they couldn’t do in Lewisham, i.e. close much-needed, high performing services at one hospital in order to deal with financial problems at another.

The Special Administration process is completely different to any other hospital reconfiguration. It starts with the need to save money, with questionable clinician input. As we know all too well in Lewisham, it is a very fast process with limited opportunity for public consultation (the consultation document relating to the South London Healthcare Trust didn’t even contain a direct question about the closure of A&E and maternity services at Lewisham!). The financial analysis and operational planning is rushed, and in the case of Lewisham and the SLHT proved to be highly erroneous. 

If Clause 118 had been on the statute book at the time the Trust Special Administrator was appointed in South London, Lewisham’s full A&E and maternity service would now be closing. 

As well as sharing these concerns in my speech yesterday, last week I wrote to all Members of Parliament to urge them to vote against Clause 118 at the first available opportunity. I know that the Mayor of Lewisham also wrote to all Council Leaders to urge them to put pressure on their local MPs to come out against the proposals. You can read an article that Steve Bullock and I wrote for the LabourList blog on this here.

You can read my full, unabridged speech in the Care Bill debate here.

P.S. The choir based at Lewisham Hospital (as featured on the Gareth Malone programme on the BBC!) are bidding to make the Christmas No.1 slot. All proceeds from their song ‘Bridge Over You’ will go to good causes – half to Macmillan and half to other healthcare charities. Please help to push the song up the charts by downloading their single here

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