Report (6th Day)

Part of Health and Social Care Bill – in the House of Lords at 4:00 pm on 8th March 2012.

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Photo of Baroness Barker Baroness Barker Liberal Democrat 4:00 pm, 8th March 2012

I just make two or three simple points. I have enormous sympathy with the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell. My party's policy is in favour of the establishment of an older people's commissioner in England, building on the interesting work that has been done in Wales. I have a great deal of sympathy with what she is trying to do. She made the argument that one has to start somewhere. I disagree with her that this is the right place to start. If one had to start somewhere, it should be in social care. The deficiencies in social care matter more to more older people than those in health.

Having said that, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, is right. Given that older people are by far the biggest users of NHS services, it would be remarkable if HealthWatch were not to include people with the expertise to follow up older people's issues.

My deep resistance stems from two things. First, I think that the biggest challenge set out in the Bill, which has been overlooked, which is why I take the opportunity to mention it again, is the challenge for the NHS to get to grips with social care and enabling older people-all people, but, by definition, older people-to live healthier lives for longer and not to wait until they turn up in the NHS.

However, my fundamental point is that I have talked to lots of older people over the years and I believe that old age has to be about more than the health service. If the only government recognition that older people have is the right to have someone to complain about the health service, I think we will be in danger of medicalising old age and inadvertently removing the full experience, wealth creativity and knowledge that older people bring to many aspects of life. I know that, given her former role, the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, would not intend that. Therefore, I hope that she will accept my support for what she is trying to do and my reservations about the way that she is trying to do it with this amendment.