Schedule 5

Part of Health and Social Care Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:30 pm on 17th January 2008.

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Photo of Stephen O'Brien Stephen O'Brien Shadow Minister (Health) 4:30 pm, 17th January 2008

I think the Minister understands the point that we are driving at. He indicated the seriousness with which he has listened to our comments. It is clear, therefore, that what the Under-Secretary of State was saying will not be realised in this Bill, which is very regrettable. I am sorry that Government timetabling has not enabled that to happen, because it would have been wholly appropriate to make it coincide

I am concerned about self-funders, although I accept that other avenues are available. However, those avenues are available not so much because of the difference between being publicly or self-funded, but because of the type of remedy available and the sort of expertise and concerns applicable to a likely complaint. There will be no difference in the quality of care, or the vulnerability and circumstances of patients, whether in a health care or residential social care setting, between those who are publicly and privately funded. The same set of human circumstances will apply.

The fact that there are potentially two different outcomes or avenues causes a lot of us deep concern. We could end up with an unintended consequence—in this case it might be intended—whereby we have a two-tier system. I am not talking about ability to pay, because clearly from that point of view it is a two-tier system—that is what determines the cut-off point between funding social care through local taxation and means-tested benefits. In effect, if a person has available assets, they must use them first. The outcome is a two-tier system for people with a similar condition. We have an issue with that from a humanitarian point of view.