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11 Nov 2010 : Column 183WH—continued

We believe, as I am sure the hon. Member for Halton does, that re-ablement services can restore someone's independence. They have a crucial role to play, where appropriate. Around half of those who go through re-ablement require no immediate care package afterwards. The NHS is investing £70 million this year, £150 million in 2011-12 and £300 million a year for the rest of this
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Parliament in better re-ablement services. That will have a significant impact on improving the lives of many people.

Telecare, too, can help keep people safe and feeling more confident in their own homes, reducing their reliance on formal home care services. These are not isolated cases. There are similar remarkable stories across the country.

Re-ablement can make a real difference, provided that the authorities act seamlessly and quickly to ensure the equipment and anything else needed to assist someone to return home, avoiding a stay in a hospital, care home or any other non-domestic environment.

Derek Twigg: We will pursue the issue about specialist children's hospitals, but I will now concentrate on the issue of the £1 billion that the NHS has set aside for, or put into, social care. No one argues that putting more money into social care is not a good thing, but we want to ensure that there is no double counting. The Minister confirms that £1 billion has been set aside, but will some of that money, or all of it, be used to fund the social care side of those services provided by local authorities?

Mr Burns: If I may, I shall start on that point in my own way, as I want to give the setting for the whole social care thing. I know that the hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey) have shown considerable interest in the matter.

The shadow Minister accepts that the NHS does not stand alone. It is only one part of this country's care system; another essential service is social care, which helps hundreds of thousands of people to live as independently as possible. As I said earlier, when the Government were elected, we found a huge hole in funding for social care. That affects some of the most frail and vulnerable, and we believe that it is imperative to do something immediately to make up some of the shortfall. As the shadow Minister will know, the Department of Health has always funded social care-not all of it, but part of it-and local authorities have funded the other part. In some areas, there is a means test under the National Assistance Act 1948, so there are possibly three funding streams. I hope that I carry the shadow Minister with me.

To redress the funding gap in social care, the NHS will transfer up to £1 billion from the health capital budget to the health revenue budget by 2014-15. That will be spent by the health service on measures that support social care as well as health. That will include a specific allocation for re-ablement services to help people regain confidence and independence following discharge from hospital. We believe that this will help hundreds of thousands of people to live as independently as possible. To the person who uses both services, it makes no sense that health and care should be separate. I hope that I have given the shadow Minister sufficient explanation.

Derek Twigg rose-

Mr Burns: If I carry on for another minute, the hon. Gentleman may not need to intervene.

As well as the extra £1 billion that the Department of Health is making available for NHS social care, additional grant funding-again, rising to £1 billion by 2014-15-will be made available for social care through the revenue support grant. By 2014-15, the total additional funding
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for social care will amount to £2 billion, half from the NHS and half in grant funding. That will be allocated in addition to the Department's existing social care grants, which will rise in line with inflation. In total, therefore, grant funding from the Department of Health for social care will reach £2.4 billion by 2014-15. I hope that that explains the situation for the shadow Minister.

Derek Twigg: I want to be clear about it, so I put the question again. How much of the £1 billion that is being taken from the NHS budget will be spent on services that council and local authority social services provide?

Mr Burns: The £1 billion will come from the NHS capital fund and be transferred to the NHS resources fund. It will then be spent by the NHS on re-ablement and other sorts of help and care for which the NHS is responsible. The NHS is responsible for the social care element of the assistance required by those in need. [Interruption.] So that the shadow Minister understands, on top of that, £1 billion will be coming from local government through the RSG.

Derek Twigg: It is in here.

Mr Burns: The shadow Minister says that it is in the document, as if it has suddenly occurred to him, but I am going through it slowly so that he gets it. Some of the letters that we have received are not quite right.

Grahame M. Morris: It is an important point, and an issue that the Select Committee has considered. Evidence presented to the Committee shows that, over the lifetime of this Parliament and beyond, the gap between funding and demand will grow. There will be an ongoing problem of underfunding in social care. I would not like the Minister to give the impression that this demographic time bomb can be resolved by this single measure.

Mr Burns: The hon. Gentleman is right. I do not claim that the demographic time bomb will be resolved by this measure. The trouble with personal social care is an historic one; Governments have always been playing catch-up. That is beyond dispute. I am saying that we recognised the growing pressures, and we believed that we had to act. That is why we have done so. It will reduce the problem, but the hon. Gentleman is right that it will not solve it, as more work has to be done. No doubt, it will be done, as we catch up with the past. I hope that I have reassured the hon. Gentleman. I now wish to make progress.

We believe that funding social care is important not only in its own right but for the sake of the hundreds of thousands of people who rely on it-and because the NHS cannot function without social care. Without it, people have to stay in hospital beds for longer, inappropriately blocking beds that other patients could use. It is important that we invest the money to ensure that there are no delayed discharges, and that we can provide an appropriate setting for those who are discharged.

Rosie Cooper: I thank the Minister for giving way. I am trying to be helpful. My hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Grahame M. Morris) is right. The Select Committee suggested that there was a £3 billion or £3.5 billion gap. Evidence to the Committee clearly showed that local authorities believed that if they invested
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a pound, the saving and the benefit was likely to be seen in the health service through exactly what the Minister mentioned-beds not being blocked and so on. This might help my hon. Friend the Member for Halton (Derek Twigg), the shadow Minister; I suggested in Committee that the element of funding that lies currently with local authorities should be transferred to the NHS. We would not then have such a gap. The local authorities resisted, but the core of the problem that both Front Benches are outlining is that the £1 billion that the councils have is not ring-fenced and will be spent on whatever provisions are desperately needed. The money that the Minister says is for the NHS will be spent only on NHS re-ablement and other stuff that is absolutely within the NHS, but the local authorities do not believe that. They think that it will be dropped on their toes at any minute, and that they can spend it.

Mr Burns: I fully understand the issue that the hon. Lady raised about whether we merge the NHS part of social care in local government into the NHS, or vice versa. That has been an ongoing debate for many years. The hon. Lady may find it difficult to believe, but 13 years ago I was the Minister with responsibility for social care. The argument was raging then. I have no doubt that it will continue to rage for some time to come. I, too, have heard the worries that the money that comes through the RSG will not be spent on social care. From the discussions that the NHS has had with local authorities, I have been led to believe that that will not be such a problem. Given that there is a problem with social care and a need to provide support, there will be a determination and a positive attitude to ensure that the money is appropriately spent on what it is designed for and that it will, with the money from the NHS, make a significant difference to a very serious and sensitive problem that we, as a society, have to address.

In conclusion, the spending review is the necessary consequence of this Government's facing up to the financial responsibilities and problems that we inherited when we came to power. If we are to secure a future of growth, prosperity and jobs and if we are to fulfil our commitment to increase funding for the NHS in real terms for every year of this Parliament, then we must place our public finances on a stable, sustainable footing.

We will not ask the sick, the disabled or the elderly to pay the price of the previous Government's economic mismanagement. We are increasing the health budget in real terms and reforming the service, not only to make the most of every penny but to put power in the hands of those who know best how to improve services. I am talking not about the Ministers and civil servants in Whitehall but about the NHS staff and patients on the ground.

Mr Roger Gale (in the Chair): Mr Morris has indicated that he wishes to make a few closing remarks with the consent of the Members present. I am perfectly prepared to facilitate that, but the hon. Gentleman must understand that these are closing remarks, and that he is not actually responding to the entire debate all over again.

5.12 pm

Grahame M. Morris: With the leave of this Chamber, I thank you, Mr Gale, for your courtesy and stewardship of this debate. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Halton (Derek Twigg) and the Minster for responding,
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and the Backbench Business Committee for giving us the opportunity to hold this debate and to scrutinise the impact of the comprehensive spending review on the Department of Health. Within the context of the CSR, Members present have highlighted concerns about the cost pressures on the NHS arising from the huge organisational change, hidden costs of VAT increases, drug inflation and cuts in local government and welfare budgets. Indeed, many questions have been raised that may be the subject of future debate in Westminster Hall or in the Chamber.

Members on the Labour Benches call on the coalition Government to honour their pre-election pledges to safeguard the NHS and enable it maintain a comprehensive
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service that is free at the point of need. I make this pledge. We on the Labour Benches will hold the Government and Ministers to account for their stewardship of the NHS.

Finally, I thank all of the Members who are here today. More than a dozen have participated, which is too many to mention by name.

Question put and agreed to.

5.13 pm

Sitting adjourned.

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