Select Committee on Health Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 680 - 699)



  680. So within the hospital?
  (Ms Edwards) Within the hospital.

  681. Which is one of the causes of delay in any case.
  (Ms Edwards) It is one of the causes of delay but is not a delayed discharge at that point. We have seen the length of stay go up slightly in the last few years and actually if anything electronic records will improve the care required for all patients.

  682. So even in patient administration systems we will see some improvements, you are saying?
  (Ms Edwards) I think we will.

  683. When do you think realistically we can expect the electronic patient records? To me it would seem to be one of the most important things. I was amazed, coming down here by train on Monday, that British Rail could tell me not only that my own train was delayed but the connection was delayed so I was going to catch it. It seems to me it is absolutely crucial to have this sort of information before we can begin to assess the impact and whether you are making any improvement.
  (Jacqui Smith) I think there are two issues here. Perhaps I could write to you about the details of the technology, if you like, in relation to the electronic patient records. But actually I am quite a strong believer that technology is important but we do not need to wait for technology in order to share information better than we do. There is a lot in some areas we can do to share information better than we are already, even before we get to the point where that is available technologically.

  Dr Taylor: Thank you.

John Austin

  684. Can I turn to intermediate care development. Some time ago the Minister in an answer to a Parliamentary Question gave a definition of intermediate care, and it seems through the course of this inquiry we have had several definitions and a certain vagueness about the term. How would you now define intermediate care?
  (Jacqui Smith) I have not got off the top of my head the definition that we issued in the guidance which I think went out in 2001. What I am clear about is the sort of role that intermediate care needs to play and increasingly is playing, both in ensuring that people have that bridge between hospital and home in terms of the rehabilitation which is provided for them, and in terms of preventing some admissions to hospital without intermediate care which happens in a way which is not necessarily appropriate. What I also know is, in terms of evaluations we have done of the development of intermediate care, we are making extremely good progress in developing beds and places and the number of people who are benefiting from intermediate care services, and that development of intermediate care is part of the reason why we have seen the reductions in delayed discharges that we have had.

  685. I note you are referring to the prevention of admission, because earlier on you were talking about step-down provision development. Do you think more emphasis needs to be put in primary care on preventing admissions as a major contributor to stop beds being blocked by inappropriate admissions?
  (Jacqui Smith) I think there is a balance. Perhaps I could ask Richard Humphries to answer as that is one of the responsibilities of his team.
  (Mr Humphries) One of the early messages which is coming out of our work with various health and social care communities is that in some places people are spending too much time having an academic debate about what intermediate care is or is not instead of getting on and developing and identifying what services they need, firstly to keep people out of hospital in the first place and, secondly, where people do need to be admitted to hospital that the right facilities are in place when they are ready to leave. We are encouraging people to focus on the practical things that need to be done to put those services in place because it all comes down to local need. Intermediate care can mean whatever you want it to mean, it can be defined in all sorts of ways, but the key point is what difference is it making to people who are going through a health and social care system.

  686. I welcome that comment. It seems to me a lot of talk about intermediate care has been beds, beds and beds, rather than you definition of developed services. The evidence we have had is almost all the development of intermediate care services has been directed into creating more beds but that in some cases this has been a re-managing of existing services or a re-designation of things which are already there. One of the points put to us as well by one of our witnesses was that the resources which have been earmarked for intermediate care often have sticky sides, that it adhered to other surfaces, and Age Concern in particular said it was very difficult to trace where the resources were going in terms of providing alternative levels of care which Mr Humphries was talking about. How would you react to that?
  (Jacqui Smith) It seems to me that what you need to do is actually to focus on what you are getting for your money, and that is very much what we have done. Incidentally, I tend to agree with you that there is a role both for the beds and places, which is why the NHS Plan target focussed on extra beds and on extra places and particularly on numbers of people who were being assisted by intermediate care. In our recent evaluations we actually believe that there are now in place plans to deliver 2,400 more beds, 6,200 more places, and that is 137,000 extra people receiving assistance through intermediate care. That is what I am primarily concerned about: are there the schemes out there that, as Richard said, are actually making a difference to helping people be rehabilitated out of hospital and helping to prevent people going in in the first place, and are we also now beginning to get a point of view of what intermediate care can do? For example, when people first start thinking about intermediate care I think it is very easy to focus on people being rehabilitated following hip replacements, say. That is a very important role for intermediate care, but actually we are also seeing intermediate care that is helping patients with dementia to be more independent. We are also seeing a whole range of pre-admission schemes, hospital at home, rapid response schemes, which are helping in a whole range of ways not only to keep people out of hospital, but also to help to develop their independence and their skills in the community as well. So we are seeing that range. We published on the Department's website—I think it was on 6 June—our evaluation and some guidance for the future about good practice that is happening in intermediate care and what is needed to develop it even further, so we recognise the need to focus people's attention on spending the extra investment that is going into the system on developing these additional services. We are evaluating nationally intermediate care provision, but we are also, through Richard's team and in other ways, looking at the experiences on the ground about what intermediate care is delivering in terms of services and what it is delivering in terms of better outcomes for older people and so on.

  687. Could I jump in here on a hobbyhorse of mine, since it is National Osteoporosis Month and the All-Party Group had a very successful session here this week. There is a fair degree of certainty that anyone who is admitted to hospital with osteoporotic fracture is likely to be admitted at some stage, yet we know that those fractures are preventable in many respects, and yet of the patients who leave hospital having had an osteoporotic fracture only one in ten gets further treatment on discharge. Is not that an area which requires fairly urgent attention, given that it is in the National Service Framework that resources do not require NSFs? Is not this an area that needs looking at?
  (Jacqui Smith) I think I might dispute with you the extent to which resources follow NSFs. I think that they do. As you know, in the NSF there is a standard on falls. I have met with the National Ostoeporosis Society to discuss what we need to do in order to make sure that services are in place for people with osteoporosis and how we need to ensure that the considerable extra investment that is going in delivers in that area as well. It comes back a little bit, I think, to what we were saying earlier about PCTs and commissioning. I have spoken to a PCT chief executive who described the incentive, if you like, when you are a PCT and you are commissioning, precisely to ensure that those sorts of services are in place so that when you are responsible for commissioning the care for an older person, both into and out of hospital, you have as a PCT a much stronger incentive to ensure that you have full services, that you have a follow-up for people as they come out of hospital. We have talked a lot about financial flows and incentives, but that is a sort of practical benefit that PCT development and the incentives that are in place there are already leading to, and are likely to lead to more in the future.

  688. My final point on this is that money is clearly a problem or is an essential for developing those services, but in my area—and, I suspect, certainly in London in particular, but the South East generally probably—even if we had the money, where would we purchase the extra therapists? There is not an adequate supply. If we are to develop intermediate care services, and in terms of levels of care, do we not need drastically to increase the whole range of supply of various therapists?
  (Jacqui Smith) You are right that a key capacity constraint for the NHS and for social care is developing staff, which is precisely why, as part of the next steps for delivering the NHS Plan, we have identified the need to recruit even further than we have in relation to therapists and allied health professionals. I was searching for information about the success that we are actually already having in recruiting extra physiotherapists.

  689. Is there more training?
  (Jacqui Smith) More training places, and attracting back into work therapists who have left for a variety of reasons. We are having success both in terms of extending the training and in recruiting. In each of those areas—physiotherapy, occupational therapists—there are more now than there were a year ago, but there are plans to ensure that there are more in the future, because I agree with you that recruitment and the availability of the right sort of staff is a very important contributor to getting fully into the system what we need across the whole of the NHS and social care actually, but clearly in terms of therapists in relation to rehabilitation, in relation to the sorts of services that you were talking about.

Dr Taylor

  690. How are you going to involve the independent sector in actually planning the development of intermediate care?
  (Jacqui Smith) Firstly, intermediate care was one of the areas of work highlighted in the concordat with the independent sector as being an area where we felt that there is very important work that we can do with the independent sector. For example on the Strategic Commissioning Group that I chair, where there are representatives of the independent sector, we have discussed, and will in the future discuss, the contribution that the independent sector can make to developing intermediate care. In a meeting that I had with the Independent Healthcare Association a couple of weeks ago I talked to them about the guidance that they are preparing around the contribution of the independent sector to intermediate care. We have, I think, already undertaken work on developing model contracts around the use of the independent sector, and with regard to some of the £66 million capital that we are devoting to developing intermediate care, I think I am right—and I will correct myself if I am wrong, but I do think I am right—out of the beds which are being developed through the spending of that capital, 25 per cent of those additional beds are being developed in partnership with the independent sector.

  691. It is good to hear that you talk to them, because they were the very people who told us that there was very little go-between.
  (Jacqui Smith) Perhaps that was before my meeting, Richard!

  Dr Taylor: Yes. I am glad to hear that. Thank you.


  692. Can I not necessarily bring in a discordant note, but slightly change the emphasis, following on your question. I am not sure I entirely agree with that question. I noticed that in The Guardian this morning William Laing of Laing & Buisson, the care analysts, was quoted as saying, "For better or worse, the delivery of nursing and residential care was largely privatised during the 1980s and 1990s." My question, in a sense, is, has not the involvement of the market made it more difficult to plan for strategies such as intermediate care and to address delayed discharges than if you actually had a system that largely depended upon public sector or non-profit-making provision? I was interested in a study that was drawn to my attention from the West Yorkshire area, which I will be happy to try to get hold of and pass on to you, which has looked over the past year or so at the discharge arrangements for patients coming out of acute beds through intermediate care and the intermediate care comparisons being used for a local authority intermediate care provider and the use of private sector intermediate care. The conclusion that has been drawn from this period of study is that people tend to remain within the private care home rather than actually moving on to their own home environment. I think the concern is that where you are using private care there is a built-in incentive for people to remain in that private care facility because obviously the private care home owner wishes to ensure that his or her beds are filled. The question I would raise is slightly at an angle from where Richard was coming from, that part of the question is about the Government's position of involving more and more the private sector, in that there are in my view clear conflicts and disincentives to the process of rehabilitation because of the profit motivation.
  (Jacqui Smith) I think you set the context in terms of what you said at the beginning about the nature of social care providers. For whatever reason, we are in a position—and I do not necessarily share your concerns about this—where a large part of care provision is in the independent sector, in both private provision and in some absolutely excellent voluntary sector provision, both in terms of residential and domiciliary care and contributions to intermediate care. My primary concern, I have to say, is how do we develop the necessary capacity both in intermediate care and in long-term care, in order to ensure that older people have the quality, the choice and the provision that they need to meet their needs. As to whether the independent sector has a role that they can play in providing that quality, I am happy that we should work with them in order to ensure that that capacity is there. Part of your question, I think, was really concerned around how we then manage that capacity across a sector which includes public provision, voluntary sector and private sector provision. I think there have been concerns, both from the local authority side and from the independent sector, about how we develop the sort of commissioning behaviour that ensures that we have that long-term high-quality provision. It was, of course, because of that that John Hutton set up, within the Department, the Strategic Commissioning Group which brings together representatives of the NHS, local government and, in his day, of independent care providers. I have recently expanded it also to bring in housing providers as well, going back to our previous discussion. One of the first roles for that Strategic Commissioning Group was to develop the agreement that we published, alongside the extra £300 million worth of investment, which was about what sort of good practice in terms of commissioning and working to plan across the sectors should there be in place at a local level. We made it actually a condition of receiving hot-spot funding from the £300 million that agreements and strategies based on that agreement should be part of the deal for receiving that hot-spot money. I certainly have been pleased about the progress that has been made in local commissioning, in bringing together the various different sectors to make sure that we have got that provision where we need it.

  693. Can I be more specific? Forgive me for interrupting you, but the point I am making is not necessarily a dogmatic, anti-private-sector point.
  (Jacqui Smith) Heaven forbid!

  694. Exactly! I can actually see merit in some more appropriate provision by the private sector. As a Committee, on Monday and Tuesday we have looked at some of that provision. My concern is that following on from Laing's comments in respect of the privatisation of the system (which are his words, not mine), it certainly struck me that that was what was going on in the 1980s and 1990s, and we now have a market established, a very vociferous market, that is skewing at the entire direction of the market by their demands on the issue of ensuring that the care home sector and nursing home sector has a future. My concern—and, as I say, it is not dogmatic—is that I can see solutions being offered by the private sector which are more appropriate. Certainly talking to, for example, Tunstall who were looking very imaginatively at telehealth solutions, and to companies like that and others that I have talked to, it seems that the care home sector are driving the debate in a very narrow direction and a very backward direction and, in a sense, the Government are largely responding to that backward debate in that we are not moving like other countries away from the institutional model of care, but simply going along with saying that yes, we need more care homes, we need more places. They are saying that there is insufficient money coming forward. Should we not break away from that debate and move off in different directions, whether it be with the private sector, or non-profit-makers or local authorities?
  (Jacqui Smith) Actually I think what we have tried to do is to develop a view of capacity that says we need to put the needs of older people, and what it is that they are telling us that they want, at the centre of designing our services.

  695. Not care homes though. I have never met one single older person, having worked for not far off 20 years in social services, who made a positive choice of entering a care home, not one single person.
  (Jacqui Smith) If your argument is that we need to develop alternative ways of caring for older people, including much more development, for example, of intensive home care packages, much more of a development of the sort of housing care provision that we were talking about earlier, I would agree with you. I think there is already evidence that the 6 per cent increase to September 2001 in the numbers of intensive home care packages being offered suggests that there is progress being made in diversifying provision. I would not go as far as you in saying that no older person would want, or that for no older person would it be appropriate, to have residential provision.

  696. No, I did not say that. What I said was that in 20 years I have never yet met an elderly person who made a positive choice that that was their wish. Quite frequently they have had to go in, because they have recognised there is no alternative. My argument is that you need an alternative, and the alternative there would be not to go into a care home or a nursing home.
  (Jacqui Smith) Where I agree with you is that we need to have a range of alternatives, and that is where the stronghold of both local and national commissioning strategy I was talking about earlier is very important. Where I might, I suspect, disagree with you is on two things. One, is that it is not possible to envisage a person's choice of going into residential care, although I accept what you are saying. I have forgotten the second item on which I disagree with you. I know the second issue was, I think, a sort of allegation that the Government was in some way or another responding to the concerns of private sector care home providers as well. To the extent that we have recognised that in many areas there need to be better working relations in terms of commissioning, that the emphasis that we are putting on quality needs to be reflected in terms of fee levels, yes, we are responding to the care providers, but what we are also clearly saying is that the design of the overall configuration, if you like, of services for older people has to be based on an understanding about what older people want, what is right to promote their independence, and that is the basis on which we need to plan our services.

  Mr Burns: I have a very quick question, and a yes or no answer would be more than sufficient. As the Minister for long-term care, would you personally ever make a speech and describe pensioners as "banged up in care homes"? Would you? I want an answer.

  Chairman: We will give that one a miss, to be fair.

  Mr Burns: No, I would like an answer.

  Chairman: That is a term that I would not use. It was not me who used it, but I would not use it.

Mr Burns

  697. Let the Minister answer.
  (Jacqui Smith) That was not, of course, made in a speech, that was made in the heat of parliamentary debate, the sort of pressure you are putting me under now.

  Chairman: I would suggest the Minister would not use that phrase.

  Mr Burns: I would like to hear her say so.

  Chairman: At that point, let us move on. Sandra, we said we would come back to you on the incentive issues. I know you wanted to come in here. There are areas you wanted to explore on that which we may not have covered.

Sandra Gidley

  698. I apologise for not being able to be here earlier, and I hoped to make this part of the session. Certainly if we refer to Delivering the NHS Plan, which seems to have moved on from Wanless, in that the Government seems very keen to go ahead with cross-charging for social services, what I would like to do is to explore a little bit as to whether any conclusions have been reached as to how this will operate in practice. For instance, will there be a period of grace before any charge against social services is implemented, or if social services cannot place somebody who is fit to go home straightaway, will they be charged from that date or will there be a sliding scale? When does the Minister envisage that these charges will come into being?
  (Jacqui Smith) Firstly, I think, to a certain extent your question implies part of the problem potentially with the system at the moment where it is not working properly, and that is that we do not actually start thinking about where people should be going when they are discharged from hospital until some way well down the track, when actually we should have been thinking about it a lot earlier. So the way that I would envisage the system working is that firstly I think we need to make much clearer that social services need to be notified as soon as possible after an emergency admission, and potentially, of course, well before an elective admission, by the hospital, of a patient who is likely to need social care after they are discharged. Then I think it would make sense to put in place a short focussed period of time in which to make a discharge plan. I do not know if you were here earlier when I was discussing the difference between a discharge plan focussed on what would happen to a person on leaving hospital and a sort of ordinary assessment, but I think there can be a very tight focus of period of time in which, social services being aware, there is time to develop a discharge plan. Then, of course, we would also need to have a decision made by a clinician within the hospital, that somebody is better and safe to be transferred out of the hospital. Then it seems to me that having in place a discharge plan and having that decision, that is the point at which it is the responsibility of social services, and I shall come to that in a moment. That is the appropriate point, given what I was saying to Mr Burns earlier about funding available to social services, to take responsibility for those people ready to be discharged from hospital; that is the point at which the responsibility either to find an alternative to remaining in hospital or to paying the costs of somebody remaining in the hospital could kick in. However, in relation to your earlier question, we have moved back the responsibility for planning that discharge much earlier on into the system, which is good for the system, but most importantly, I think, it is good for the older person. The next decision, if you like, that needs to be taken, for the implications of what happens after that, depends on who has responsibility for that care. Clearly there are going to be some people where what is needed is ongoing NHS care or care for which there is an NHS component, and it clearly would not be reasonable to charge a social services department where effectively the responsibility had not transferred to them because there was still an ongoing responsibility for the NHS.

  699. Would that be proportional? For some people there is some nursing care needed, but not 100 per cent hospital care, so it seems perverse in a way that the person might be fit to be discharged from hospital but is probably not fit enough to live unaided at home. There is a whole grey area there inbetween. I am unclear as to where the responsibilities for them lie.
  (Jacqui Smith) That particular example I do not think is very grey. That sounds to me like social services' responsibility to put together a package to support that person to live at home. If the only thing that is stopping a person coming out of hospital is having the necessary support at home, that sounds to me like social services' responsibility.

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