§ Mr. Major
As a matter of normal good practice, local authorities assess any elderly people placed and financed by them in independent homes. Supplementary benefit payments to people living in residential homes do not depend on a care assessment. However, in line with the recommendation of a joint central/local government working party, the Department is funding pilot studies in812W four areas under tha aegis of York university, so as to assess the feasibility of extending loca authorities' normal assessment procedures to supplementary benefit claimants. A report is expected by Easter.
§ Mr. Freud
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what steps are being taken to aid groups with special experience of illness in old age to disseminate their knowledge into non-specialised hospital departments, as suggested by the Health Advisory Service annual report; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mrs. Currie
It is the Department's policy that wherever possible acute geriatric units should be provided in main district general hospital (DGH) buildings. This policy was outlined in the document entitled "The Respective Roles of the General Acute and Geriatric Sectors in Care of the Elderly Hospital Patient" published by the Department in 1981. As the latest Health Advisory Service annual report recognises, having an acute geriatric unit in a DGH should facilitate a ready exchange of advice and mutual assistance between geriatric teams and colleagues in other specialties in which elderly people are treated.
§ Mrs. Currie
Guidance on these matters is contained in the Royal College of Nursing booklet "Improving the Care of the Elderly in Hospital", which forms part of the training material provided to health authorities by the National Health Service Training Authority. The booklet has recently been extensively revised by a joint working party of the Royal College of Nursing, the British Geriatrics Society, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and this Department. The new version is expected to be published in the spring of this year. These issues are also fully covered by the Health Advisory Service in its reports on services for elderly people in particular districts.
§ Mrs. Currie
It is for local authorities to decide in the light of the total level of resources available how much should be devoted to domiciliary care for elderly people. Since 1978–79 expenditure on personal social services by local authorities in England has increased by over 20 per cent, in real terms. From the very substantial increase in rates support grant provision for 1987–88 the indicative figure for personal social services expenditure allows for the first time an extra 1 per cent. (£27 million) to enable authorities to build up their community care services.
Joint finance money from health authorities can also be used to fund domiciliary care. The annual allocations to health authorities for joint finance have increased from £34.5 million in 1978–79 to £110.8 million in 1986–87, a real terms increase of 64.1 per cent. The main allocation to regional health authorities for joint finance will be 3.75 per cent, higher for 1987–88 than for the previous year.
In addition, we are making a total of more than £10 million available under the Helping the Community to Care programme announced in 1984. Elements of this programme are directly concerned with developing services and for those caring for elderly people in their own homes. We recognise that it will often be good practice to provide frail elderly people with domiciliary care to enable them to continue to lead an independent life. The overview of community care which Sir Roy Griffiths will be undertaking and which my right hon. Friend announced on 16 December 1986 will be considering what action might be taken to encourage such good practice.