The principles behind the Care Bill are very much Liberal Democrat ones: a once in a generation opportunity to reform social care so that there is real integration between health and social care.
The core belief in the Bill is that the law and the care system now focus on people who need support, rather than on the system itself.
The Bill also provides a cap on the costs that an individual has to pay for their own social care, new improved rights for carers, and a real focus on preventative services, so that people can avoid the accidents and illnesses that bring many of our older residents in to hospital too frequently.
The Lib Dem team leading this has been Paul Burstow MP, Norman Lamb MP, Baronesses Judith Jolly & Liz Barker and many more colleagues on specific issues, and they have done a great job. In the later stages of the Bill, we have been focusing on changes that can improve it further.
One of the key improvements during the passage of the Bill has been clarity about the role of Trust Special Administrators (appointed to sort out a failing hospital trust). Paul Burstow has led the discussions since the Bill was in the Commons on guaranteeing that other hospitals and commissioners whose services might be affected by the closure or radical change to the hospital in administration must be consulted early on. Paul has also been asked to chair a cross party group of parliamentarians advising the minister on the statutory guidance that will underpin TSAs.
There were also further concessions on the application of the Human Rights Act (HRA) to private care providers. Before this amendment, there was an extraordinary position where public service health and social care was covered by the HRA, but not private. This could leave individuals without recourse to their rights. The Government has agreed that a private provider who is subject to the Care Quality Commission regulations will now be governed by the HRA.
The Bill also enshrines in law the rights of care givers: another long held Liberal Democrat principle, making sure that they can get the help and support they need when looking after their family member.
And the Bill also looked at the Health and Social Care Information System, which has been set up by Government to share health information with organisations that carry out health research. Information would be accessed on an anonymised or pseudonymised basis, but a number of amendments sought to gain clarification that this could not be abused by organisations with a commercial interest, and the Government has supported this, and made it clear that any commercial use is, and would remain, illegal. The care.data element of the proposal was rightly delayed to provide the guarantees that the identities of individuals could be extracted from that data in any circumstance other than highly regulated medical research projects.
Baroness Sal Brinton
Liberal Democrat Lords Health Co-chair
Published and promoted by Tim Gordon on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, both at LDHQ, 8-10 Great George Street, London, SW1P 3AE.