Social care can benefit from the likely delay in the government’s health reforms, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services’ president has said.
Peter Hay said delaying the Health and Social Care Bill’s resumption until the autumn could lead to changes that would enhance the integration of health and social care and pave the way for the planned reform of adult care law and finance next year.
He was speaking after deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said the bill should re-run its committee stage in the House of Commons so MPs can scrutinise in detail the changes to the legislation that will follow from the government’s “listening exercise” on its reforms.
It would not be possible to re-run the committee stage in full before Parliament’s summer recess, meaning the legislation would have to resume in October at the earliest.
Ministers will shortly receive the report of the NHS Future Forum, which was appointed to consider changes to the bill in light of heavy criticism from the medical professions and other groups.
Hay, a member of the forum, said: “What [Clegg’s comments] mean is that the Future Forum work can be considered properly by Parliament.”
He said this could “provide space” for changes to the bill that would enhance integration of health and social care, and support planned legislation next year to reform adult care law and funding, on the back of reports from the Law Commission and the Dilnot funding commission.
“Adass’s position going into this is that there’s a lot in the bill that needs to be changed around the role of local authorities,” he said. This includes a strengthening of the strategic role of health and well-being boards – which will be created under the bill to oversee health and social care commissioning in local areas, he said.
He said the debate on integration in relation to the Health and Social Care Bill had been “relatively simplistic” so far. It had not considered “uncomfortable issues” such as the need for many people to pay for integrated packages of care, given the means-tested nature of social care. This was a key link between the likely recommendations of the Dilnot commission, which is due to report next month, spelling how much people should pay towards their care in future, and the Health and Social Care Bill, Hay added.
“We’ve got a Health and Social Care Bill where 90% of the debate has been about the first half and we need to have an equal debate about the other side,” said Hay. “We’ve got a long way to go to advance the public understanding of care and we’ve got to help government with the debate about how care should be paid for.”
The Department of Health said it could not comment on whether the committee stage should be re-run ahead of the NHS Future Forum report. However, some Tory MPs are pushing for any re-run to cover only those parts of the bill that had been amended, allowing for the stage to be completed before the summer recess.
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