HC Deb 16 November 1984 vol 67 c923

Question again proposed, That this House do now adjourn.

11.29 am
Mr. Patten

Furthermore, this reflects in part the fact that they are relieved of some of the costs of living at home. I accept that the different arrangements applicable to long-stay patients and residents in old people's homes can be regarded as an anomaly. I think that I see my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South seeking to ask me to give way on that point.

Mr. Thorne

Will my hon. Friend please take into consideration the very unpleasant effect that constant bills have on the elderly? It is one problem for young people to receive them, but it is another when elderly people receive substantial bills. In this case, my constituent received a bill for her sister's accommodation for nearly £3,000. Every quarter yet another bill arrives, so the bill becomes greater quarter by quarter. She has already paid £6,000, so the most recent bill makes the total £9,000. She would like to know what happens when the entire value of the present accommodation is used up. Is that not an immoral way to proceed? Should we not be much more humane and let the sister carry on with her life without that millstone hanging round her neck?

Mr. Patten

I entirely appreciate my hon. Friend's concern for the welfare of his constituent and his constituent's sister. I shall bear in mind everything that he said. Perhaps my hon. Friend will be so good as to write to me with full details, including the bills that he mentioned this morning, so that as soon as possible I can go into the important points that he made on behalf of his constituent, with his characteristic care.

We have no plans to introduce "hotel charges" for NHS patients, or to abolish the 1948 provisions under which residents in local authority homes are required to contribute towards the cost of their accommodation. My hon. Friend also drew attention, in his most interesting speech, to the current arrangements for assessing what the contribution should be. We are open to new ideas. The current charging system is designed to reflect people's ability to contribute to the costs of their accommodation.

There has been concern that those charging arrangements need revision—my hon. Friend has been foremost in suggesting it — and particularly that they should be brought into line with the rules for paying supplementary benefit where, for example, capital of up to £3,000 is disregarded. Earlier this year we issued a consultative document setting out proposals for new revised arrangements. The response was not enthusiastic. Generally, our proposals were regarded as too complex. One of the points about consultation is getting such feedback. The arrangements were regarded as too complex, particularly those for calculating the notional income which should be assumed to derive from capital.

Since the proposals were issued we have, of course, started to review arrangements for supplementary benefits, as my hon. Friend will be aware. We have decided to delay further consideration of the whole range of issues that lie behind the points made by my hon. Friend until that review is complete. I assure my hon. Friend, however, that in taking our thinking forward we shall give careful consideration to the points that he made so lucidly.