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1 Apr 2003 : Column 871—continued

Jacqui Smith: As we come to the "zee" of this legislation, I hope that we can bring it to a successful conclusion. I shall respond first to some of the points made by the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Burstow). He asked me about the cost of seven-day working. I reiterate what I said in my introductory remarks: some social services departments are already successfully ensuring that, within three days, they assess and put in place the package of care necessary to get people safely out of hospital, so calculating the cost of bringing everyone up to that level is not straightforward.

We could argue that everyone should be at that level already, but we recognised that social services departments needed more funding for that aspect of work, among others. That is why the access and systems capacity grant, in particular, highlights the need to improve the number of people involved in assessment and the speed with which assessment takes place, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made clear in his statement in July last year. We have made it clear that that considerable extra investment will contribute to that function.

Although I can take such comments from the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam, the hon. Member for West Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) has a bit of a cheek in returning to money again. However, he begged me not to be too confrontational, so I will not be. I shall simply remind hon. Members that the extra investment in social services departments, which enables us to have our high aspirations about ensuring that people get out of hospital and receive the right care when they need it, is possible because of the Government's investment plans, which were not supported by Opposition Members.

In response to the concerns that were raised about people returning to their own homes and then perhaps struggling or being concerned about whether the package of care was adequate, we said that two-week

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reviews would be undertaken when people return to their own homes. That concern is not so likely to relate to people in care homes, although I recognise the point that we often need to ensure that people do not automatically go into care homes when, with a bit of support, they could return to their own homes. I am glad that the hon. Member for West Chelmsford is nodding.

The Government have therefore not only defined the idea of intermediate care in the national service framework, but invested significantly in it. That is why last week we were able to report a considerable increase in the number of people who benefit from intermediate care, when we celebrated the fact that the national service framework was published two years ago. That type of opportunity will ensure that older people get the care that they need, as well as the chance to regain their independence.

Opposition Members have tried to claim victories today, and I am certainly willing to say, as I did earlier, that we have taken a constructive approach throughout the debates on the Bill. For example, we recognised the need to strengthen the provisions on carers in the amendments that we proposed. We also realised that we needed to ensure that the Bill—which is so much about putting patients, particularly older people, at the centre of care—explicitly recognised that fact in the way in which it makes requirements to ensure that people are consulted, for example, before social services are notified and involved in the process. We have made changes and we have clarified the position as we have gone through this process.

Mr. Burns: The Minister has been constructive in accepting Opposition points of view and in tabling amendments. Would she have been so constructive and made so many changes to the Bill if our Parliament was a single chamber Parliament?

Jacqui Smith: If hon. Members will forgive me, I will not even start down that route.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): Order. The hon. Lady would be well advised to take her own advice and stick to the amendment.

Jacqui Smith: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have outlined some of the issues on which we have made progress. The Bill comes out of the process the better for that.

I also remind hon. Members that we have maintained at the centre of the Bill—in part 1—the principle that we set down at the beginning. It is right to put in place a system of incentives that ensures that predominantly older people get the right care at the right time and in the right place. We should focus on making sure that health and social services work together better than they have previously so as to make sure that the community alternatives are in place. The Bill that the hon. Member for West Chelmsford has described as horrible on various occasions will, in the very near future, become an Act. That principle will be enshrined and, as I have argued throughout, it represents—along with part 2, which will make community equipment services free and ensure that intermediate care, wherever it is placed, is free—an important step forward. It will enable the

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Government to continue the progress that they have made in reducing delayed discharge and will make sure that the additional investment that we are putting in place has the effect that it should have. Older people and others can be more confident that they will get the right care in the right place and at the right time. On that basis, I commend the Bill and ask the House to support the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): With permission, I shall put together motions 5, 6, 7 and 8.

Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation),

Local Government Finance

Question agreed to.

Health Protection Agency


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 25 (Periodic Adjournments),

Question agreed to.

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Community Pharmacies

5.58 pm

Mr. Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon): I wish to present a petition on behalf of 2,253 residents of Huntingdon, St. Neot's, Brampton, Kimbolton, Alconbury, Ellington, Spaldwick and Stoneley.

The petition declares

To lie upon the Table.

5.59 pm

Mr. Michael Weir (Angus): This, too, is a petition about pharmacies; it is from the villages of Friockheim and Letham in my constituency.

The petition states:

To lie upon the Table.

6 pm

Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South): This petition, which has 3,399 signatures, was given to me and to my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-East (Mr. Ainsworth) by several local pharmacies in Coventry. They are concerned that they will go out of business because supermarkets will under-price them, and if so, people who are having treatment for drug abuse will no longer be able to get that treatment locally, although they cannot say why.

The petition states:

To lie upon the Table.

1 Apr 2003 : Column 875

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