Clause 5

Part of Health and Social Care Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:30 pm on 15th January 2008.

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Photo of Kelvin Hopkins Kelvin Hopkins Labour, Luton North 12:30 pm, 15th January 2008

The hon. Lady makes an important distinction but provided that the effect is to ensure that everyone in any type of care, however it is contracted, is protected under the Human Rights Act, I am happy. The amendment may need further amendment at a later stage during the progress of the Bill, but my intention is to ensure that everyone is covered effectively by the Human Rights Act.

Nine out of 10 care homes are within the private or charitable sector following a range of privatisations over many years. However, under the law as it stands, the scope of the Human Rights Act does not directly extend to those care homes, which means that residents of independently run care homes who experience human rights abuses cannot use the Act to challenge the care home provider. There is widespread and serious concern from, among others, the British Institute of Human Rights that such a situation exists. The institute has convened a group of more than 15 disability and human rights organisations—some of which have provided separate briefings to the Committee— including residential care providers, as well as statutory bodies that share a concern about the protection gap. I ask the Minister to support the amendment in order to close the loophole in the law and to ensure that the Human Rights Act protects older and disabled people receiving health and social care services, regardless of the provider. It is unacceptable that because of changes—perhaps moving from a public home to a private provider—the provisions of the Human Rights Act should be removed from someone in care.

The evidence shows that closing the loophole is necessary and urgent. A number of cases show a stark cruelty and lack of care. We have concerns about malnutrition and dehydration, including meals being taken away before the patient can eat them, or insufficient help with eating and drinking. There is also a lack of privacy, dignity and confidentiality. The hon. Member for Eddisbury spoke of people who had just undergone operations  and who were still unconscious not being treated with dignity. Indeed, some individuals are being left in their own urine or excrement. Neglect and carelessness is another problem; I include poor hygiene and the rough handling of patients, with bullying, patronising and infantilising attitudes being taken toward older people.

I have a list of real examples but I shall not read them out in full. People are being neglected, and becoming bedridden and developing pressure sores. As we heard earlier, people are being over-medicated to keep them docile. Chronic understaffing is another problem; indeed, in one home a single male carer was left on his own to look after 30 older women. That is not acceptable, and I hope that other members of the Committee would agree.