The Conservatives have pushed for urgent action to give self-funding adult care users recourse to an independent complaints process as legislation to introduce the measure nears the statute books.
Last night, the Health Bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons, meaning it will now return to the Lords for consideration of amendments made by MPs before passing into law.
Direct payments for health services
Key measure in the bill include introducing direct payments for health services, which will enable pilots of personal health budgets to take place, and giving self funders the right to complain to the local government ombudsman about care services.
Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley welcomed both measures but urged the government to introduce the complaints process for self-funders quickly. Self funders, unlike council-funded counterparts, can only complain to their service provider at the moment.
He said: “I just hope that when ministers come to reply to this short debate, they will say that they will be able to make progress in the next few months on incorporating that.
Fast progress urged
“A lot of people whose social care is arranged privately will continue to be without that protection unless there is fast progress.”
Ministers did not make any pledges on a timetable for implementing the measure.
Health secretary Andy Burnham said the provisions allowing for direct payments for health care would further empower patients to take greater control of the services they receive.
Evaluation of personal health budgets
The three-year evaluation will examine which patient groups will benefit most from the budgets, which are based on personal budgets for social care service users.