Government’s Care Bill to give people peace of mind

Swift action following Francis report and epic changes to care laws

People will be treated more compassionately in hospital, see their care better joined up and be reassured that they will not have to pay astronomical care costs if they need to go into a care home in their old age, thanks to measures set out in the Care Bill, published today in Parliament.

The Care Bill will help drive up quality of care following the findings of the Francis Inquiry into events at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. It will also include improvements to the care system following an extensive consultation with people and organisations right across the health and care system – from users of services to providers of care. The Bill will create a single modern law that replaces more than a dozen pieces of legislation dating back to the post-war period.

Through the Care Bill, the Government is introducing laws that will:

  • Help people get compassionate care in hospital, in a care home or in the community, by introducing Ofsted-style ratings for hospitals and care homes, making quality as important as finance and strengthening training for staff.
  • Join up care by enshrining in law that everyone should have a personal care plan, access to a personal budget and that carers, for the first time, will have a right to get support themselves if they are found to have eligible needs. There will also be a national minimum eligibility threshold across the country.
  • Reform the funding of care so no one will have to sell their home in their lifetime, or lose everything they’ve worked for, to pay for the costs of living in a care home. And a cap on care costs and financial support for more people will protect people from catastrophic costs and provide important peace of mind.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said:

“We have swiftly brought in measures to address the findings of Robert Francis’ report that will improve care and mean that patients will be treated with more compassion and respect. I strongly believe that Ofsted-style ratings, improved training for staff and making quality as important as finance will improve NHS care.

“These changes go hand in hand with our epic changes to care legislation that will mean, for the first time, people will not have to fear losing their homes in their lifetime to pay care home fees and everyone with a care plan will be able to have a personal budget to choose how they are cared for.

“Importantly, if someone receives care in the south but wants to move to the north to be closer to their family, they will be able to do so without fear of losing their care.”

Care Services Minister Norman Lamb said:

“For the first time in a generation we are addressing the pressing need to support people when they reach crisis point and need help most. People will finally be able to plan for their later years and not have to fear being saddled with catastrophic costs to pay for care.

“This, coupled with the new national eligibility criteria, security that our care is not lost if we move to a different part of the country and giving everyone who is eligible access to a personal budget, will greatly improve the outlook for later life.”

Elements of the Bill that respond to the Government’s Caring for our future White Paper last year include:

  • A new legal right for everyone with a care and support plan (or support plan) to have a personal budget, which they can receive as a direct payment if they wish to. This gives people more control and the ability to tailor the services they receive to their requirements and preferences.
  • No-one’s care and support is interrupted if they move to a different local authority area, for example, if they want to live closer to family or change jobs.
  • For the first time, carers will have a right to receive support themselves if they are found to have eligible needs.
  • The person will be involved in the assessment process that determines what care and support needs they have, and this process will focus on the needs of the individual and on the outcomes they wish to achieve.
  • National eligibility criteria will mean a fairer and clearer system, and help people understand whether they might be eligible for access to ongoing care and support.
  • A new focus on people’s wellbeing will see more done to keep people well. This will include a more all-encompassing assessment process that considers a person’s capabilities and what they can achieve themselves, as well as considering what other support might be available from family, friends or in the community. This will help to delay or prevent people from developing serious care and support needs, rather than the current system which often only intervenes in a crisis, and will mean than people’s specific needs at different times in their life will be better supported.
  • No-one will have to sell their home in their lifetime, or lose everything they’ve worked for, to pay for the costs of living in a care home later in life. A cap on reasonable care costs and financial support for more people with their costs will protect people from catastrophic costs and provide important peace of mind. As our population ages this is more important.

Elements of the Bill that respond to Robert Francis QC’s report include measures that:

  • Underpin the new ratings regime for hospitals. Francis highlighted the need for a single, shared version of the truth about quality. This Bill will give CQC the legal powers it needs to set up, design and get on with the new ratings system, without any political interference.
  • Ensure quality is as important as finances. The Bill will give Monitor clear authority to intervene where the Chief Inspector exposes problems with the quality of care. The Care Quality Commission will also be given a power to require Monitor to put a Foundation Trust into administration if it becomes clinically unsustainable (currently Monitor can only do this on financial grounds).
  • Give the CQC stronger powers to expose poor care. At the moment, the CQC can only take action where a hospital is failing to comply with one of its set standards. This can be bureaucratic. The Bill will give the Care Quality Commission broader powers to act if it spots poor care that requires significant improvement.
  • Introduce a new criminal offence on providers who supply false or misleading information. The Bill will make it a criminal offence for care providers to give false or misleading information.  We will limit the offence to providers of NHS secondary care (NHS Trusts, FTs and independent providers of NHS secondary care) and to certain types of information such as mortality rates.

The Bill will also:

  • Strengthen training and education. The Bill will set up Health Education England legally as the first ever non-departmental public body responsible for training and education for NHS staff, giving the NHS workforce unprecedented focus and support.
  • Strengthen research regulation. The Bill will set up the Health Research Authority legally as a non-departmental public body, so it can act independently to regulate the research sector and protect people who take part in research or are thinking about taking part. This will help build a vibrant research sector that is safe and ethical.

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