Reforms to the health and social care system cleared the Commons yesterday , with ministers claiming they would lead to the most significant changes in more than 60 years.
Health minister Dan Poulter told MPs the Care Bill would seek to improve the lives and quality of care for many people, particularly the frail elderly and those with disabilities and long-term care needs.
But the measures, which include seeking to introduce a £72,000 cap on care costs in England and safeguards for data-sharing of medical records, were labelled “modest” and a “Frankenstein Bill” by Labour.
The opposition continued to raise concerns about the “hospital closure clause”, which it warned could result in well performing hospitals closing due to their proximity to failing ones.
The clause was put forward by the government after the High Court ruled against a special administrator scrapping services at the financially sound Lewisham Hospital in an attempt to prop up South London Healthcare Trust, which was going bust.
Shadow health minister Jamie Reed said the coalition had “hijacked the Bill to rush through a back door” tool to reorganise and close hospitals.
Several amendments by peers and the government, including extending the number of people receiving social care covered by the Human Rights Act, were passed unopposed by MPs.
Labour pushed one of its amendments on the Trust Special Administration clause to a vote, which it lost as 294 MPs voted against it compared to 195 in favour, majority 99.
The Bill now requires Royal Assent to become law.
Speaking in the Commons, Dr Poulter said: “It’s worth bearing in mind this Bill does represent the most significant reform of care and support in more than 60 years - putting people and their carers in control of their care and support for the first time, and this Bill will put a limit also on the amount that anyone will have to pay towards the costs of their care.
“It’s a very big step forward - a step forward that was long overdue and the Bill delivers key elements also to this government’s response to the terrible events which took place in Mid Staffordshire and the recommendations that were contained in the Francis Report by increasing transparency and openness and helping to drive up the quality of care across our NHS and social care system.”
Turning to the TSA clause, Dr Poulter said: “The government is committed to a TSA regime that is workable, transparent and in the best interests of patients.
“In cases of exceptional and significant care failure where lives are put at risk if the problem is not dealt with swiftly and effectively, it is for this reason we are strengthening the regime with the changes contained within this Bill.”
For Labour, Mr Reed said: “This is probably the final piece of health legislation that will come before this Parliament.
“To date, this Bill marks four years of chaos and confusion in the NHS, chaos inflicted on the service by the Prime Minister and his (two health secretaries, Andrew Lansley and Jeremy Hunt) and what a four years it has been.”
He added: “As this zombie Parliament limps towards the finishing line, we’re asked to consider a Frankenstein Bill - a badly stitched together one, which began with good intentions but for which for the most will not end well.”