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It is a charity that should feel an obligation to people who have been in its homes for many years, and should offer some degree of stability.
We need care homes and nursing homes. The national health service depends on them and the care of people depends on them. I welcomed the Government's establishment of the royal commission on long-term care, which recognised the continuum between acute and chronic and long-term care. However, I am disappointed that they did not accept the commission's recommendation that personal care--the care that people need owing to their disability or infirmity--should become the responsibility of the NHS. In reality, we have created not care in the community, but a way to enable the national health service and the public sector to shuffle off responsibility by pushing people into the private care sector. Like the hon. Member for Dumfries, I went through the same, extremely difficult process of externalising a group of homes.
If the royal commission's recommendations had been accepted, there would have been greater expert input into residential and nursing homes. Occupational therapists, specialist nurses and community psychiatric nurses would have been much more proactive in the residential part of community care. There would have been many more community geriatricians, particularly psycho-geriatricians. When expertise is brought into such settings, a lot can be done. The use of community pharmacists has to some extent revolutionised older, often confused people's over-dependency on drug regimes. Drugs increased their confusion, so they had to be drugged further to render them confused and quiet rather than confused and disturbed.
The Care Standards Act 2000 will take us a great deal further forward, but without proper funding from the centre, there will be care standards for non-existing provision. That would be tragic. Not everyone can be maintained in their home, although such efforts are indeed welcome. However, not everyone needs to be in a district general hospital or a reconstituted long-term ward. It is right to allow people to remain in their locality in sensitively run residential provision, and the private sector has demonstrated that, with adequate funding, it can provide a service.
It is very worrying that home closures in my island constituency are threatening people with rehousing not only in a different community or village, but away from their own island, on which they may have lived for 70 or 80 years. I hope that the Government will take urgent action and review available residential and nursing home provision. The Minister cannot simply say that the problem affects only 7 per cent. of the population; he must consider the pain felt in different parts of the country and take steps accordingly.