HC Deb 20 May 1997 vol 294 cc505-6
18. Mr. Hinchliffe

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what proposals he has to clarify the specific responsibilities of health and social services authorities. [421]

Mr. Boateng

We are committed to a long-term care charter defining the standards and services that people are entitled to expect from health, housing and social services. In addition, the examination of services for the elderly will consider a range of issues connected with the funding of long-term care. In the meantime, we expect health authorities to continue the good work that they are doing, together with social services, to ensure that they deliver their continuing care responsibilities.

Mr. Hinchliffe

I welcome my hon. Friend to his new brief. In the short time for which he has held that brief, has he had an opportunity to study the issue of boundary disputes between health and social services authorities about, for example, the question of bathing people at home? Does he agree that it is ludicrous for elderly and disabled people to be the subject of disputes about whether they require a "social" bath or a "nursing" bath when all that they need at their age is a bath? Does my hon. Friend agree that the most appropriate response is to establish a single agency competent to deal with all community care needs?

Mr. Boateng

My hon. Friend has considerable experience in this area, which we value enormously, and we certainly recognise his point. It is important for local authorities and the health service to work together to deliver high-quality care to those who need it. We have already begun to talk to the Local Government Association and the National Health Service executive to deal precisely with the matter that my hon. Friend raises. The real concern of the elderly and vulnerable people out there is not so much who pays for it or who does it as whether it is done adequately, on time and with the quality that is necessary for the best possible treatment. Those are the criteria that we shall use. We shall concentrate not on demarcation lines between the NHS and social services but on how to guarantee the best possible treatment for those who need it, and we shall take that forward as a matter of urgency.