I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
The Bill will bring about the most profound change in the care system for a generation. It provides certainty on care costs that has never been available before;
independent and transparent inspections to drive up the quality of care; integration of the health and social care in a way that has been talked about for years but never delivered; and real patient empowerment to put people firmly in the driving seat for their care planning.
The Bill will also implement or help to implement many key recommendations made in the Francis report following the shocking failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS foundation trust. We are also establishing vital new principles for dealing with failure where it occurs, most notably the requirement and ability to deal with unsafe care quickly before lives are lost unnecessarily.
I thank all those who have been involved in considering and scrutinising the Bill, including my predecessor, who was responsible for originating it, together with my right hon. Friend Paul Burstow. I particularly wish to thank the Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend Norman Lamb, and the Under-Secretary of State for Health, my hon. Friend Dr Poulter for their herculean efforts in Committee and today to ensure that the Bill returns to the other place in the best possible state. There was a well-informed and rich debate on this landmark piece of legislation, for which I thank Members on both sides of the House.
We know that in the next 20 years, 1.4 million more people are likely to need care and support. The Bill prepares our country for that change with the most comprehensive reform of social care legislation in more than 60 years, creating for the first time a single, modern statute for adult care and support that is focused around the person, not the service. Meanwhile the new £3.8 billion merger of health and care services will allow the delivery of seamless, co-ordinated, whole-person care for those in need. In doing so, we will be realising a vision that was talked of for 13 years by the previous Government and actioned in three by this one.
Crucially, these reforms make a reality of the proposals of the Commission on the Funding of Care and Support, chaired by Andrew Dilnot. Many older people and people with disabilities face catastrophic and potentially ruinous bills for their care and support. The Dilnot commission judged quite simply that the current funding system is not fit for purpose. The Government have listened to the Commission’s advice, have acted, and are implementing its recommendations. For the first time, a cap on care costs at £72,000 in today’s prices will provide protection to every single person in England. People who have worked hard all their lives need no longer fear that they will lose everything just because they are unlucky enough to develop care needs beyond any reasonable budget.
The difficult decisions the Government have taken on public spending have enabled us to pledge £2 billion per year to fund this cap, from which more than 100,000 people will directly benefit financially. What is more, we are raising the threshold for the means test for help with residential care, so that in 2016-17 alone, up to 35,000 more people will receive support with their care costs. Our universal deferred payment scheme will put an end to people being forced to sell their homes in their lifetime to pay for their care.
People often enter care at a point of crisis, and at a time of great distress. These reforms will create a better, fairer system, enabling people to grow old, safe in the knowledge that they will receive the care they need without facing unlimited costs. Combined with the Government’s wider moves to protect pensions and improve care standards, we are determined to fulfil our vision to make Britain the best country in the world to grow old in.
I had the great privilege to serve in Committee, during which the Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend Norman Lamb expressed support for my view that if the pilots prove successful, we should be able to provide free social care at the end of life to allow more people to die with dignity at home. Would my right hon. Friend commit to that this evening?
I thank my hon. Friend for her work in Committee. That is an aspiration that we all share, and some of the results from the pilots are extremely encouraging in terms of the extra care and support we are able to give people. End-of-life care is a priority for everyone, so I share her enthusiasm that we can make progress on that very important area.
Financial security must be combined with confidence in the standard of care received. A year on from the Francis report, we are debating a Bill that will help us to deliver 61 commitments that we made in response to it. We are restoring and strengthening a culture of compassionate care in our health and care system.
Robert Francis’s report said that the public should always be confident that health care assistants have had the training they need to provide safe care. The Bill will allow us to appoint bodies to set the standards for the training of health care assistants and social care support workers. These will be the foundation of the new care certificate, which will provide clear evidence to patients that the person in front of them has the skills, knowledge and behaviours to provide compassionate high-quality care and support.
New fundamental standards will ensure that all patients get the care experience for which the NHS, at its best, is known. In his report, Robert Francis identified a lack of openness extending from the wards of Mid Staffs to the corridors of Whitehall. We want to ensure that patients are given the truth when things go wrong, so the Bill introduces a requirement for a statutory duty of candour which applies to all providers of care registered with the CQC. The Francis inquiry also found that providing false or misleading information allows poor and dangerous care to continue. We want to ensure that organisations are honest in the information they supply under legal obligation, so the Bill introduces a new criminal offence for care providers that supply or publish certain types of false or misleading information.
The care.data programme will alert the NHS to where standards drop and enable it to take prompt action. To succeed, it is vital that the programme gives patients confidence in the way their data are used. For that reason we have today amended the Bill to provide rock-solid assurance that confidential patient information will not be sold for commercial insurance purposes.
Patients also need to have confidence that where there are failings in care they will be dealt with swiftly. At Mid Staffs that took far too long. That is why the Care Bill requires the CQC to appoint three chief inspectors to act as the nation’s whistleblowers-in-chief. Their existence has started to drive up standards even in the short time they have been in their jobs.
Perhaps most fundamentally, the Bill re-establishes the CQC as an independent inspectorate, free from political interference. The Bill will remove nine powers of the Secretary of State to intervene in the CQC to ensure that it can operate without fear or favour. The Bill will also give the CQC the power to instigate a new failure regime and will give Monitor greater powers to intervene in those hospitals that are found to be failing to deliver safe and compassionate care to their patients. For the most seriously challenged NHS providers, there needs to be a clear end point when such interventions have not worked. The Bill makes vital changes to the trust special administration regime, established by the Labour party in 2009, to ensure that an administrator is able to look beyond the boundaries of the trust in administration to find a solution that delivers the best overall outcome for the local population.
I realise that the Secretary of State was not in office when the TSA process was started in the South London Healthcare NHS Trust, but he did accept the report of the administrator and, of course, appealed against the High Court decision that found against him. Will he clarify and put on the record that it is the coalition Government’s view, and the view of their constituent parties, that the people of Lewisham should not have an accident and emergency unit; should not have a maternity unit; should not have a paediatric specialty; and that two thirds of the hospital site should be sold off? Those were the recommendations of the TSA, which he wanted to accept.
Let me first tell the hon. Gentleman that the TSA did not recommend the closure of the A and E unit at Lewisham hospital, and he knows that perfectly well.
I will say what this Government are determined to ensure does not happen again. Mid Staffs went on for four years before a stop was put to it. Patients’ lives were put at risk and patients died because the problem was not tackled quickly. The point of these changes today is to ensure that, when all NHS resources are devoted to trying to solve a problem and they fail, after a limited period of time it will be possible to take the measures necessary to ensure that patients are safe. I put it to the hon. Gentleman and to all Opposition Members that if they were in power now they would not be making the arguments that they have been making this afternoon, because it is patently ridiculous to say that one will always be able to solve a problem without reference to the wider health economy. They know that: it was in the guidance that they produced for Parliament when they introduced the original TSA recommendations. What Government Members stand for is sorting out these problems quickly and not letting them drag on in a way that is dangerous for patients.
Following the concessions announced by the Under-Secretary in the previous debate, do I understand correctly that if the TSA makes recommendations to a non-failing trust to its detriment and the trust objects to those proposals, NHS England can, through its arbitration process, impose those changes?
Let me clarify; we want to listen to the consultation that will be led by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam and the new Committee that he chairs. We are requiring local clinical commissioning groups and GP groups to come to an agreement on the right way forward in these difficult situations. We need an arbitration system for when agreement is not possible, which this clause allows for. We would like there to be agreement but we cannot allow a situation where, when there is not an agreement, we end up with paralysis and being unable to sort out the problem of a trust that is failing, particularly when it is unsafe and patients’ lives are being put at risk. That is exactly what was happening in the South London Healthcare NHS Trust.
As the Bill leaves the House to return to the other place for the final stages of its passage, we can be justly proud. This is a landmark piece of legislation that will transform the experience of those who rely on the NHS and care systems by giving patients and their carers both legal rights and a much better joined-up service. It will reduce the money wasted on duplication and allow more resources to be directed at the front line. It will remove the uncertainty and worry of unpredictable care costs in later life and will put individuals at the heart of a system built around their needs and not its own priorities.
Most of all it will send a signal loud and clear that when it comes to the challenge of treating an ageing population with dignity, compassion and respect, this House has not shirked its responsibilities but has risen confidently to the challenge.
I begin by thanking my shadow team, particularly my hon. Friends the Members for Leicester West (Liz Kendall) and for Copeland (Mr Reed), who have spent many hours trying to make sense of this unwieldy piece of legislation. I, too, want to thank members of the Public Bill Committee for their work, as well as the Officials, Officers and staff of the House who enabled the Committee’s work to take place.
It is right also to pay tribute at this point to the Care and Support Alliance, a very important association of organisations working to be advocates and champions for some of the most vulnerable people in our society. The alliance worked with the previous Government and is working with this Government; indeed it works with all sides of the House. It can take some credit for some of the steps forward that are coming as a result of the Bill, and it is fair to say that there are some steps towards a better social care system.
I would argue that the Bill builds on the work of the previous Labour Government in that regard, particularly in the overdue recognition of carers. We welcome stronger legal recognition and rights for carers. We welcome better access to information and advice, which will make a difference to some people using the care system. The idea of portability—that if people move from one place to another, their entitlement to care goes with them—is a good principle and one that I put forward. We welcome the fact that it has been carried into the Bill. The principle of a cap on what people should pay for social care is in itself an important step forward. I recognise that but, as I will go on to say, we do not believe that all is at it seems.
There are measures in the Bill, as the Secretary of State said, to implement parts of the Francis report, such as the organisational duty of candour and moves to strengthen regulation. We welcome these steps but we would have encouraged the Government to go further.
The big problem with the Bill is the gap between what Ministers claim it does and what it actually does. It is not what it seems and it will not deliver on the claims made for it. Worse, it is no answer to the problems posed by an ageing society, and it is not equal to the scale and urgency of the care crisis that the country faces.
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman is in a very strong position to talk about Members’ abstaining in votes on amendments. I shall say more about that shortly.
Let me now list three reasons for our argument that the Bill is not what it seems. First, as I have said, it is no answer to the care crisis. It proposes that a cap should be paid for by the restriction of eligibility for care, and the removal of care from some people who are already receiving it. Last week we heard from Age Concern that 800,000 people who had previously received support no longer received it. The problem is that local authorities are being asked to implement the system with no additional resources, and are therefore having to move funding from preventive social care to the administration and funding of the cap and the deferred payment scheme. Rather than taking from one area of social care to give to another, the Government should have put new resources into social care.
The right hon. Gentleman said a moment ago that the Bill removed care from some people by restricting eligibility criteria. Does he accept that although there is a national eligibility criterion—which is long overdue—any councils that choose to be more generous can do so, just as they can now?
If the Minister gave councils budgets that enabled them to be more generous, they might have a chance, but drastic cuts mean that they cannot provide care that is worthy of the name. He will know of the fears of organisations that represent disabled adults of working age. The Royal National Institute of Blind People, for instance, fears that the move to retrench eligibility criteria to cover only substantial and critical needs will remove care from people with moderate needs whose support currently enables them to continue to work.
I understand that the Minister is to visit Salford tomorrow. Perhaps he would like to talk to Salford city council, whose budget has been cut by £100 million over the last three years, about how it might be more generous. I am glad that my right hon. Friend has mentioned carers and their new rights, but how hollow do those new rights seem to carers in Salford, given that 1,000 people will lose their care packages this year and 400 will not qualify for them? That is a direct result of what the Government have done.
My hon. Friend’s intervention brings me to my second reason for thinking that the Bill is not what it seems. The changes in eligibility for social care expose more people to social care charges than was the case before the present Government came to office, and, as has been demonstrated by my hon. Friend Liz Kendall, those charges are increasing above inflation. More people are paying care charges, and paying them at a higher level. The care cap is not what it seems. In fact, as my hon. Friend has consistently argued, it is a care con. The Secretary of State said today that the Bill would give people certainty about what they would pay—
The Secretary of State says yes, but I am afraid that it will not. The £72,000 cap is based on a local authority average, not on the actual amount that people will pay for care. So no, the Bill will not give them that certainty. The Secretary of State also said that people would not lose everything to pay for care. Let us take him at his word, and assume that £72,000 is the maximum that a person can pay, and £144,000 is the maximum for a couple. In my constituency, that would indeed mean people losing everything that they had worked for, although it might not mean that in the Secretary of State’s constituency or in other parts of the country. The Secretary of State needs to be honest with people. That is why we are saying that the Bill is not what it seems.
I am not writing a budget at the Dispatch Box this evening. I will stand by our record of giving real-terms increases to local government. I warned at the start of this Parliament that if the effect of the Government’s promise of real-terms increases for the NHS—which have actually never materialised—was a raid on local government, that would be a short-term policy. It would mean more older people ending up in hospital and who then could not be discharged because there was not the care at home. That is exactly what is happening. It is a false economy. That is what we warned them about and they failed to listen.
No I will not, as the hon. Gentleman has not been here all afternoon.
The third area is the claims that the Bill will improve regulation. Let me ask a direct question: if this is about improving the quality of services, why remove from the CQC the responsibility to provide oversight of local authority commissioning? Why do that if this Bill is about improving regulation? Why leave local government free to do what they like at a local level—to commission for 15-minute visits or for staff on zero-hours contracts—when we have seen the failures at Winterbourne View and other places? Why remove that important role from the CQC?
Let me tell the right hon. Gentleman what this Bill does: it introduces the proper expert-led inspection of social care provision that was scrapped by his Government, so that we actually know when there are care problems and we sort them out.
The right hon. Gentleman has not answered the question. There was a responsibility on the CQC to provide oversight of local authority commissioning. This Bill removes it. Why does it do that? It is a backward step in my view.
The fourth area is that, in respect of the care data scheme, the Bill fails to provide the assurances the Government tried to herald in the press a few days ago—to borrow the Secretary of State’s words today, a “rock-solid assurance” that data could never be passed to commercial insurance companies. I do not believe it is possible to claim that new clause 34, which has now been added to the Bill, does that. It just has general aims around the promotion of health. That does not stop data being passed to private health insurance companies. Again, I do not think the Bill does what the Secretary of State claims it does.
The fifth area I want to challenge the Government on is the whole question we have just been debating. This goes to the heart of where the coalition began, which was that local people would be in the driving seat and local GPs would be in control. The coalition agreement said the Government would end centrally dictated closures. Well, they have ripped all that up this afternoon by passing clause 119 and keeping it in the Bill. They claimed they were just doing what we left behind. That is not the case, because the High Court told them otherwise. The High Court told them they had gone beyond the powers I had created in 2009. The Secretary of State was unable to answer that. He said everything was our fault—it is never their fault or his fault. Well how about him listening to the Court? How about him reading the clause that we passed before he tried to close or downgrade Lewisham’s A and E? Would that not have been a good thing to do? He did not do that, however. He tried to plough on and downgrade a successful A and E in the teeth of opposition and he got found out. Yet he comes back here today and just thinks arrogantly he can ram the same powers back through this Parliament.
What we have seen today from Paul Burstow, who positioned himself as though he was going to make a stand for local involvement in the NHS, is the worst kind of collusion and sell-out of our national health service. Just as the Liberal Democrats voted for the Health and Social Care Act, again they have backed tonight the break-up of the NHS. In the last few days the right hon.
Gentleman has been asking for all these signatures from all over the country—148,000 people to sign his petition—just so, it seems, that he could get a new job working within the coalition. I am not sure they are going to feel well represented this evening.
We took action to address care standards in the NHS. The right hon. Gentleman is trying to politicise care failure. The Labour Government inherited the Bristol Royal infirmary scandal from the previous Conservative Government, along with the scandal at Alder Hey and the Shipman murders, but we did not try to politicise those failings. The Secretary of State is trying to politicise such failings today, however.
The Lib Dems have shown again tonight that they simply cannot be trusted to stand up for the national health service. There is only one party in this House that will do that, and that is the Labour party represented on these Benches. The next Labour Government will repeal the Health and Social Care Act and restore the right values to the heart of the NHS. In so doing, we will also repeal clause 119 of this Bill. We will take the powers that the Secretary of State has taken for himself today and hand them back to local people.
We will not get the care that we want until we are able to face up to the care crisis that this country now has. Our argument is that the full integration of health and care is the only way to reshape services around the person. That is the only way to go, and we will give a full green light to NHS organisations to collaborate and integrate, instead of working with the market regime that this Government have introduced. We have had the ludicrous spectacle of the Competition Commission telling two hospitals that wanted to collaborate that they could not do so because it would be anti-competitive. That is the reality of the NHS that this Government have created. That is the nonsense that people are facing on the ground. Only when we repeal the Health and Social Care Act and get rid of the powers that the Secretary of State has taken for himself today will we put the NHS back on the right path, away from the path towards fragmentation and privatisation, and begin to build a 21st-century NHS.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.
I congratulate the Secretary of State on this groundbreaking Bill. It is disappointing that there has been such a curmudgeonly response to it. Some important concessions and improvements to the Bill have been made during its passage through the House, and it has been a great pleasure to serve on it throughout the entire process, starting with the Committee on the draft Bill. At every stage, the Government have listened to the concerns and made improvements.
There is just one small element that I would like to draw to the Secretary of State’s attention. There has been a step change on the issue of open data. For the first time, there has been recognition of the need not only to publish data but to disseminate the findings of the research involved. That has been an important concession in relation to part 3 of the Bill. We have also heard today about the improvements to the clauses on care.data, and I would like to ask anyone following the debate on that subject to bear in mind that their health, and the health of their children and families, will be improved if we see a commitment to improving access to health data. Let us keep that in focus. We must ensure that we listen to the very real concerns that are being expressed, but please do not opt out of care.data. Let us move forward with this exciting project and with the commitment to research that we have seen throughout the passage of the Bill.
I want to make one brief point. Care in our society is delivered largely by friends and family, for free. It is done willingly, because the people involved want to do it, and we should support that. I remain extremely concerned that not enough attention is being paid to the mechanisms by which that informal care could be better supported. I ask the Secretary of State not only to look at clause 18, which covers the duty to meet needs for care and support, but to commit to drafting guidance that will make it clear to local authorities and health services that clause 19 gives them the power to meet needs for care and support.
When people are in difficult circumstances, providing low-level care such as shopping and cleaning—the kind of thing that supports people with a lot of needs that are being met by someone else—is the way forward. That is what we need to see happening. I remain extremely concerned that because local authorities are under such budgetary pressure, they will focus only on the most severe needs and that the opportunity to adopt a preventive approach, which would help to provide real care and support and keep people at home, will be missed.
Order. Hon. Members will, I know, be sympathetic to each other. Everyone will try to help other colleagues, I feel sure.
I shall make two brief points, which I think are the two things for which the Bill will be remembered. The first is a story that started 17 years ago, when Tony Blair as a newly elected Labour Prime Minister went to the Labour party conference and said that a Labour Government should not tolerate a position in which families lose their houses in order for their loved ones to be cared for. It has taken 17 years to legislate the solution to that problem, and I congratulate my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench on having redeemed the Blair pledge.
It was interesting that in his Third Reading speech the shadow Secretary of State started by saying that the Bill builds on the ideas that he pursued as Secretary of State. He is right when he says that, which is why the second half of his speech was such nonsense. The other element of his record on which the Bill builds is making real a commitment to joining up health and social care. We have had generations of Secretaries of State, including me and the right hon. Gentleman, who have made the case for joining up health and social care. It is the better care fund introduced by this Government which ensures that resources flow in a way that will make that rhetoric real.
The Bill will thus be remembered, first, for rationalising the individual contribution. The shadow Secretary of State has an endless argument with his colleague the shadow Chancellor about funding social care, but what we have is a plan that makes that system better than it has been hitherto. Secondly, we have a clear commitment to resource flows across the health and social care divide. Those are the two key elements of the Bill, which is why I welcome it and why I shall vote for it if I get the opportunity to do so this evening.
I shall be brief. Throughout the passage of the Bill, I have felt that there is considerable consensus on what a good social care system should look like. For that reason, I am disappointed that the Government failed to be more accommodating towards a number of reasonable amendments tabled by the Opposition. In particular, I still cannot understand the Government’s decision to remove the CQC’s duty to inspect commissioning, which stood as part of the original Bill and mysteriously disappeared when it was in the Lords.
There are worse elements of the Bill, such as clause 119. We heard earlier that this is a grave threat to every hospital and community in our country. Members on the Government Benches supported the clause today, but I expect most of them will regret doing so at some point in the future. Yet again, this has been a sad day for our health service on this Government’s watch. Underpinning everything we have discussed in the many hours of debate on the Bill is the fact that local authorities all over the country are experiencing a funding crisis, driven by a Government who appear unconcerned about the effects of their spending cuts on the poor and the vulnerable. Even the sensible reforms in the Bill will not benefit everybody.
I shall end on this point. Those people who are seeing their care packages disappear, those who are locked out of the care system, and everyone who turns up at a hospital to find that departments are shut—let them know that it is this coalition’s fault. I hope all coalition members are proud of themselves.
The Bill deserves a Third Reading because it replaces 60 years of piecemeal, dog’s breakfast legislation. In place of that it will put a system focused on promoting the well-being and quality of life of the individual. It provides a foundational set of changes of the sort that my right hon. Friend Mr Dorrell was talking about.
My 18 years in this place have been about campaigning for the changes that the Bill brings about. I have seen countless Green Papers and heard countless promises of reform. This legislation brings that reform home and delivers change—change that I hope all Members will support, because it is for the good of our constituents that we are here and the Bill delivers a lot of good.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed, with amendments.