Questions in Parliament

updated 1100 Saturday 13th September 2003

"If this subject is common knowledge it will be more difficult for politicians to sit on the fence, perhaps claiming ignorance of how the law stands on this. All political parties are probably a little frightened of Coughlan and this story. Why ? Because it mostly relates to local government, and all parties are probably vulnerable at this local level. They will all use the story for their own political ends, but it does not change the basic facts: many people can claim back money that is lawfully theirs - to the tune of a possible 10 billion. Many others need not sell their homes to pay for care - but they need to know that they qualify, and what they should do.
Robin and his family have no political affiliations whatsoever."

Robin Lovelock - from www.NHSCare.info

Paul Burstow again ...

received from Derek Cole on Thursday 11th September 2003 ...
While moving a resolution on the elderly in the Commons yesterday, Wednesday, Paul Burstow said,

"In February this year, the health service ombudsman published a highly critical report on long-term care. She found that the NHS had adopted unfair, even unlawful, rules for deciding who was entitled to fully funded continuing health care. Despite court judgments and the ombudsman's rulings, the Government have done next to nothing to put that injustice right. They remain in denial about the fact that they have done anything wrong at all. However, the guidance issued by the Department of Health under this Government's watch has served only to obscure the legal position and left the NHS locally to draw up its own rules. Those rules amount to age-based rationing of health care. Once assessed-and thousands never even get that far-people who are turned down are directed to social services and are means-tested. It is a scandal that for so long the sick elderly in need of health care have been forced to sell their homes to pay for services that they thought throughout their working and taxpaying lives they would receive free when they needed them.

We are not talking about personal care or the recommendations of the royal commission on long-term care. We are talking about the law of the land, dating back to the institution of the national health service and the principle that health care is free on the basis of need. For far too many elderly people, that is not the practical everyday reality-they are denied that right and are charged for going into a care home. In too many cases, the rules mean that people only qualify for NHS funding when they are at death's door, yet no law was ever passed to draw the line between what is free and what is paid for. It has been done instead by poorly drafted guidance and neglect. Ever since the ombudsman reported in February, Ministers have stonewalled on the Government's response. I hope that when the Minister stands at the Dispatch Box today, he will offer a sincere apology to the families who have had to battle for so long to get their rights recognised and who had only the ombudsman to rely only to get change and recompense for what they have lost. "

Questions asked in Parliament - from Derek Cole

HOW NOT TO ANSWER A QUESTION

From Hansard at PMQ last Wednesday, 25th June 2003. Answer drafted, presumably, by Alistair Campbell

Mr. Burstow : May I ask the Prime Minister about a report that was submitted to this House by the health service ombudsman earlier this year, which revealed the scandal of elderly people being means-tested and charged for their health care? When will the Government act to compensate the thousands of elderly victims and reassert the principle that health care is free on the basis of need, regardless of a person's bank balance or age?

The Prime Minister: As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have already introduced free nursing care for certain people. To extend that right the way through all types of care would cost well over 1 billion, possibly 1.5 billion. We believe that that money is better spent on trying to provide support for people in their own homes. I point out to the hon. Gentleman that as a result of that support, around 40 per cent. more people get support in their own homes today than did a few years ago.

from Robin: hopefully the recent appointment of Dr John Reid as new Health Secretary means that this subject will soon get more government attention, and Tony Blair will soon be able to give it some of his time. Perhaps even John and Tony might invest a few minutes to read our simple overview. I can well understand why Alan Milburn chose to resign, and give more time to his family - with this little lot brewing up under him :-)

HEALTH MINISTER ADMITS WE ARE RIGHT ON FREE CARE

Minister of Health, Jacqui Smith, answer on Wednesday 15 January 2003 ...

From Derek: Jacqui Smith (Hansard 15h January) in reply to Glenda Jackson's demand that the patient should be represented in all dispute proceduresberween the PCT and Social Services.

"...Perhaps I can give some reassurance, at least to my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Glenda Jackson), by describing some of the improved safeguards-especially those relating to advocacy, about which my hon. Friend was concerned. Individuals wanting to know whether they should receive fully funded continuing NHS care should be informed as part of the assessment process. As I said earlier, the single assessment process and all other guidance make it clear that that is the first question NHS and social services need to consider when assessing the ongoing needs of someone who, potentially, has a primary need for health care."

HEALTH OMBUDSMAN INSTRUCTS BERKSHIRE HEALTH AUTHORITY

from Paul Burstow's speech on Wednesday 15 January 2003 ...

"My second question is about consistency in NHS continuing care. As the Audit Commission found, there are wide variations in how the Government's guidance on continuing NHS care provision is implemented. Over the past months there have been some very damning health ombudsman inquiry findings against strategic health authorities that have acted unlawfully in saying that someone is not entitled to free NHS continuing care and therefore must instead be means-tested by social services departments. As a result people have given up resources to which they are entitled, whether by selling their home or running down their bank balance. Given such evidence, will the Minister ensure, if and when the Bill is enacted, that we can be confident that there will be an assessment of a person's entitlement to such care from the outset?

In Berkshire, the strategic health authority has been told as a result of the health ombudsman inquiries to trawl through records of the past few years to find when people have been wrongly pushed down the social services route and subjected to means-testing rather than receiving free continuing NHS care. That is the case not just in Berkshire but in Dorset, Wigan and Cambridgeshire. Will the Minister ensure that strategic health authorities will conduct those trawls, which have been requested by the health ombudsman; otherwise many people will feel that the guidance issued by the Department and the way in which it has been interpreted by health authorities runs contrary to the decisions of the courts and robs people of money? People are having to pay for what is fundamentally NHS care."