George Freeman highlights moves to better integrate and improve care provided outside hospitals

9th February 2016

George Freeman highlights the Government’s commitment to better integrate and improve care provided outside hospitals.

Care Outside Hospitals

7. Victoria Atkins (Louth and Horncastle) (Con): What progress the Government has made on integrating and improving care provided outside of hospitals. [903540]

16. Amanda Solloway (Derby North) (Con): What progress the Government has made on integrating and improving care provided outside of hospitals. [903549]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Life Sciences (George Freeman): I join you, Mr Speaker, in offering the Government’s congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins) on her extraordinary success.

Tackling the long neglected integration of health and social care is a major priority for this Government. It is crucial to avoiding unnecessary hospital admissions, providing better care outcomes for the elderly and easing the pressure on our health economy from an ageing population. That is why we have set up the better care fund, providing funding of £3.9 billion—£5.3 billion if we include local funding; why my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has announced the social care precept, which will raise £2 billion; and why we have fully funded the NHS Five Year Forward View integrated care pioneers and new models of care in 95 sites. That is more than Labour promised or ever did in its term of office.

Victoria Atkins: Thank you for calling me, Mr. Speaker. I must mention the team ably led by the hon. Member for Ealing North (Stephen Pound) and of course the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes).

In areas with a high proportion of older residents, home aids and adaptations can help people live longer in their homes, which benefits them and can also help to ease pressure on the NHS and social care services. What steps are the Government taking to boost such support?

George Freeman: My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. The disabled facilities grant is our primary mechanism for supporting the most vulnerable patients. It is currently £222 million, and I am delighted my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has announced it will increase to £500 million by 2019-20. That will fund 85,000 adaptations and help to prevent 8,500 unnecessary hospital admissions.

Amanda Solloway: In a recent study carried out by the Care Quality Commission, a survey found that there had been no notable improvement in mental health services outside hospitals. What steps are being taken to rectify that?

George Freeman: My hon. Friend makes an important point. It is right that the crisis resolution and home treatment teams were criticised in the recent CQC report for not providing adequate home treatment. That is why the Prime Minister announced in January that we are providing an extra £400 million in funding for those teams. It is also why, in the mandate, we recently required that NHS England not only agree, but implement a plan to improve crisis treatment in all areas.

Helen Jones (Warrington North) (Lab): Does the Minister now accept that the Government’s decision to slash funding to local authorities was disastrous for adult social care, as the Government were warned at the time that it would be? Does he also accept that the social care precept, which the Government are allowing councils to levy, will raise the most money in those councils with the highest council tax base, not necessarily in those with the greatest need?

George Freeman: I would be concerned if that were true. The point is that we are facing extraordinary, exploding demand in our system. At the risk of sounding like a Monty Python sketch, what have the Government done, apart from launching the £3.9 billion better care fund and a £2 billion social care precept; fully funding the NHS Five Year Forward View, with a front load of £3.5 billion; driving health devolution; and providing £4 billion for health technology? We are funding the integration of health and care in a way the last Labour Government never did.

Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab): That is really not true. Ministers are presiding over the hollowing out of social care, because their funding falls far short of what is needed. Some £4.6 billion has already been cut from adult social care, and the funding gap is growing at £700 million a year. The social care precept the Minister has just been talking about will raise £400 million a year, and the better care fund does not start until next year, when it starts at £105 million. Simon Stevens has called this “unresolved business”. When will Ministers face up to the fact that the Government’s figures just do not add up?

George Freeman: I think that that question could be taken more seriously, first, if the Labour party had tackled this issue in office and, secondly, if it had any suggestions. Let me summarise the pressure the system is under. Over the next 10 years, there will be a 22% increase in over-65s, and the number of people aged over 75 will rise by 90% in the next 20 years. We face extraordinary challenges. That is why we have announced the better care fund increases, why we have launched the social care precept and why we are driving devolution powers for local areas, which allow local health and care leaders to integrate. If this was as easy as Labour Members say, perhaps they would have done these things during their term in office.

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