§ 2. Mr. Rowe
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations she has received on the workings of the assessment procedures introduced under the National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990; and if she will make a statement.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. John Bowis)
From the information available, the new arrangements seem generally to have got off to a good start. We have established a monitoring system to ensure that the policy objectives are met. We have received a number of representations on the workings of the assessment procedures and will consider carefully any suggestions to improve still further those processes.
§ Mr. Rowe
It is a pleasure to see a former director of community affairs at the Dispatch Box for the first time and I warmly welcome my hon. Friend to that position. Does he agree that the new assessment procedures have, as part of their merit, the great advantage that they make it easier for care managers to assess the amount of care and to budget rather more precisely for the delivery of that care? If that is the case, why is the Department so anxious about the possibility of extending direct payment to those clients who are deemed to be best served by it?
§ Mr. Bowis
From one former community affairs director to another, I thank my hon. Friend for his kind remarks and I express my gratitude to the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Hinchliffe) for having read my collected speeches.
We are all aware of the stout work that my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) has carried out with Lord McColl in respect of this research and debate. His aims, like ours, are to ensure that patients have a much greater say and are much more involved in planning for their needs. My hon. Friend will accept that at the moment. we need to ensure that the new community care reforms have time to settle down, bearing in mind that social security has traditionally been the route for cash and social services the route for services. If my hon. Friend continues to debate, I will continue to listen and perhaps we can look to the future together.
§ Mr. Redmond
I, too, congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his appointment. Will he instruct all chairmen appointed by the national health service to answer questions from right hon. and hon. Members? Some chairmen refuse to answer questions. Will he request that they answer them?
§ Mr. Bowis
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his initial comments. Perhaps he can draw to my attention any particular problems that he experiences. I believe that we want openness in the development of our policy. In so far as Ministers are responsible, we will respond and in so far as local health authorities are responsible, they will respond, as will local social services departments. Openness is important and I am glad to know that at least the hon. Gentleman basically supports the aims and objectives of our policy.