HC Deb 06 March 1979 vol 963 cc1078-9
6. Mr. Michael Latham

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what proposals he has to allocate a higher proportion of available resources to geriatric care, whether provided at home or in hospitals or through other community provision.

The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Mr. Alfred Morris)

In the planning guidelines issued to health and local authorities, I have asked them to give high priority to the improvement of geriatric and other services for the elderly, including domiciliary and residential provision. As indicated in the recently published public expenditure White Paper, further developments in services for the elderly will continue to be a high priority in the use of any additional funds which become available to the NHS.

Mr. Latham

As, thank God, our people are living longer and are healthier, is it not plain that there will be a tremendous strain on resources over the next 20 years? Have the Government undertaken any long-term planning—not the public expenditure White Paper projections but long-term planning—on the future level of resources over that period merely to maintain existing standards, let alone increase them?

Mr. Morris

The elderly population has increased, is increasing and will continue to increase. My Department's overall planning norm of 10 geriatric beds per 1,000 persons aged 65 years or over is being reviewed in the light of changes in demography and patterns of service. We are treating the subject extremely seriously. We are not merely sloganising about community care for the elderly. On the contrary, we put our money where our principles lie. For example, the amount of National Health Service resources set aside for the joint financing scheme increased from £8 million in 1976–77 to £21 million in 1977–78 and £34.5 million this year.

Mr. Carter-Jones

Is my right hon. Friend aware that very often when a person goes into a geriatric ward there is the feeling "Abandon hope all ye who enter here"? Is he aware of the wonderful work that is being done in geriatric re-habilitation? Will he please allocate resources to allow the elderly who go into geriatric wards to be given the opportunity to get out of them? Will he please give that top priority?

Mr. Morris

There are many competing priorities. I agree that geriatric re-habitation is extremely important. I shall take carefully into account all that my hon. Friend has said. I know that he agrees that community care for the elderly is also extremely important.

Mrs. Chalker

Will the right hon. Gentleman take steps now to stimulate an increased amount of attention by voluntary bodies to help those families who care for their own elderly in the community? Will he persuade local authorities to organise relief care to a greater extent than is now possible for those families that spend so much of their time looking after their elderly but who cannot do so for 52 weeks a year?

Mr. Morris

I keep closely in touch with voluntary organisations. I am especially concerned to do so with a view to improving care for the elderly. The Government's introduction of the invalid care allowance has done much to help those who are looking after elderly and disabled relatives. I shall take very much into account the point that the hon Lady makes about local authorities.