The Government's policy of charging for some social care services might be reviewed if it could be proved that charging was 'cost ineffective,' a senior Department of Health official has suggested.

Tom Luce, head of the DoH social care policy division, made the admission to MPs on the Commons health select committee which is investigating the relationship between health and social care.

'If it were demonstrable that collecting these charges was proving cost ineffective across the spectrum of services as a whole that would be a significant factor in the development of future charging policy,' he said.

He said that the DoH had not found any evidence that local authorities' power to charge for certain services was 'seriously cost ineffective in its consequences.'

Pressed by MPs about whether the DoH had investigated charges,Mr Luce admitted that the last time the issue had been examined 'in any depth' was 10 years ago.

Labour MP Julia Drown raised the issue of anomalies in charging for domicilliary care. In some parts of the country individuals were charged£100, while in Northern Ireland it was free, she said.

She asked whether the DoH was keen to rule out anomalies - such as where a person bathed by a nurse did not have to pay, while a person bathed by social services was charged - in forthcoming guidance.

Mr Luce said guidance was likely to try and resolve this problem. 'Its inconceivable that the Department of Health could not produce guidance at some point that did not address the issue of the bath.'