Care Quality Commission must not marginalise social care, MPs warn

Social care must not be marginalised by health under the new joint regulator for both sectors, MPs from across the political spectrum warned yesterday.

In a debate on the Health and Social Care Bill, which will introduce the Care Quality Commission, they said the new regulator must not be affected by the higher profile granted to NHS issues over social care. It will replace the Healthcare Commission, Commission for Social Care Inspection and Mental Health Act Commission by 2009.

At the bill’s second reading, shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said: “When social care and health care are brought together there is a natural, or perhaps unnatural, tendency constantly to prioritise health care to the exclusion of social care, and to make mental health a Cinderella within health care.”

Lansley said this would need to be addressed through amendments to the bill in its committee stage, specifying the duties of the new commission.

Liberal Democrat health spokesperson Sandra Gidley said the current focus on tackling hospital-acquired infections should not lead to the Care Quality Commission diverting resources from social care to health. She also said it needed to follow CSCI in listening to service users – adding there was little in the Health and Social Care Bill on this point – and the MHAC in making unannounced visits to those detained under the Mental Health Act.

Labour MP and chair of the all-party parliamentary group on social care Joan Humble highlighted the key differences between health and social care that the commission would have to acknowledge, such as the fact social care had around 24,000 providers, many more than the NHS.

Health minister Ben Bradshaw said he hoped to give assurances that CSCI and MHAC’s roles would not be “overwhelmed” by those of the Healthcare Commission, when the bill reached committee. He also confirmed the government would ensure the Care Quality Commission could enforce the provisions of the Human Rights Act 1998 on independent sector providers through regulation. This would effectively close the “loophole” by which residents of independent sector homes are not protected by teh act.

The bill would also allow for direct payments to be extended to social care service users who lack capacity, whose payments would be managed by a carer or advocate.

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