HC Deb 14 September 2004 vol 424 cc1108-9
3. Mr. Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove) (LD)

If he will make a statement on the availability of care home places for the (a) elderly and (b) physically disabled. [188503]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Dr. Stephen Ladyman)

The independent Laing and Buisson survey shows that there is sufficient capacity to meet the demand for care home places nationally. We recognise that there are supply problems in some areas and have given councils extra funding to tackle them. However, going into a care home is not an inevitable outcome of growing old or being vulnerable, and we are giving people a choice as regards when and where they receive care.

Mr. Stunell

I thank the Minister for that reply. He cited the survey a little selectively, because 9,600 places have been lost nationally in the last year, 2,100 of them in the north-west. Does he accept that that will mean more bed blocking and less choice for patients and clients? Will he undertake to make it easier for social services to pay a viable rate for high-quality care, to keep those places available for my constituents?

Dr. Ladyman

The hon. Gentleman has given us an object lesson in quoting selectively. He did not mention the fact that Laing and Buisson also said that the demand for care home places fell by almost the same amount as the number of places that were lost. He did not mention that Laing and Buisson said that there were now 486,000 places available, which is 16,000 more than they identified as being available last year. He did not say that his own council, Stockport, has had a 71 per cent. cash increase since 1997 to fund these measures. If the council is not taking strategic responsibility for ensuring that there are no problems in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, it will hardly come as a surprise to the rest of us, as that council is Liberal Democrat controlled.

Mrs. Claire Curtis-Thomas (Crosby) (Lab)

Will my hon. Friend be kind enough to inform me how people with diminished responsibility who are incapable of making decisions on their own behalf can access health services to ensure that they do not become physically ill?

Dr. Ladyman

My hon. Friend will be interested in the forthcoming debate on the Mental Capacity Bill, which will allow for provision for people to receive the appropriate support when they have to make such decisions. Generally, in regard to older people's care and the care of people with learning disabilities and other problems that might diminish their capacity to make decisions, we expect councils and national health service bodies to work closely with those people and their families and advisers to ensure that they are able to access all services and to take the best possible decisions in their own interest.

Mr.Simon Burns (West Chelmsford) (Con)

On the question of the occupancy and availability of care home beds, will the Minister tell the House how many people have been wrongly charged for their care in a care home in the past seven years? How many people have been reimbursed for being wrongly charged since the health service ombudsman uncovered this scandal? Why, when many of these people are dying during the delays in sorting the mess out, has the Minister missed so many of his own targets relating to reporting to the House? Has he met the target that he set in June, which was that every outstanding case up to 31 March this year would be dealt with by 31 July?

Dr. Ladyman

First, the hon. Gentleman is referring to NHS continuing care, which is not necessarily provided in care homes. He is absolutely right to say that there were a great many cases in which we believe mistakes to have been made, and we are working hard to deal with them. However, those cases do not primarily involve people who are still alive. Strategic health authorities have prioritised ensuring that compensation claims are dealt with and wrong decisions are corrected in regard to people who are still alive. The backlog that remains relates to people who have passed away, and we are now dealing with their estates. The hon. Gentleman knows that perfectly well, because I reported the relevant figures in my last written statement. I promised to make another written statement to the House as soon as possible. I never promised to make a statement on 8 September; I promised to do so as soon as possible, and I will. It would be inappropriate for me to give the House figures now, before I have made a full statement to the House.