5.17pm The social care reforms are an “important milestone”, says King’s Fund senior fellow Richard Humphries, one of the leading commentators on the subject. He says the cap of £75,000 will limit the number of beneficiaries, so today’s settlement should only be seen as a starting point for future governments to improve on. And, pressure on councils’ social care services will only increase between now and 2017.
His response in full: “Today’s announcement is an important milestone on the way to a sustainable settlement for social care in which costs are shared fairly between the individual and the state – a principle we have long argued for.
“Together with the reforms set out in the draft Care and Support Bill, this at last offers the prospect of replacing the unfairness and confusion of the current system with a clearer framework that will enable people to plan ahead.
“For the first time, individual liabilities will be limited, protecting people against the worst aspects of the current care lottery. The increase in the upper threshold for means-tested support to £123,000 is also a boost for those with modest resources who are most heavily penalised under the current system. The combined effect of the cap and a higher means test threshold will see more people receive public funding.
“However, a cap of £75,000 will limit the number of people who will benefit from it - this should therefore be seen as a starting point for future governments to reduce the cap over time, as the economic position improves. Also, by the time it is implemented in 2017, it will be seven years since the government said in the coalition agreement that it understood the urgency of reforming social care.
“In the meantime, pressures on the current system will continue to grow, with many local authorities forced to make further cuts to services. With both the NHS and social care facing significant and growing funding pressures, it is clear that today’s announcement is not the end of the journey - difficult choices lie ahead about how much to spend on health and social care and how to fund this.”
5.13pm More from the government’s announcement on social care.
The Department of Health will also give free care to those who turn 18 with “eligible care needs”, and a lower cap for people of working age who develop care needs before retirement age.
From April 2015, the DH says, “no one will have to sell their home in their lifetime to pay for residential care”. Those unable to afford the fees will be given the right to defer paying during their lifetime.
The reforms will cost £1bn a year by the end of the next Parliament. “The cost will be met in part by extending the freeze on the Inheritance Tax threshold at £325,000, or up to £650,000 for couples, by three years from 2015-16”, the DH says.
“The remainder will be funded from extra headroom created by private and public sector employer National Insurance contributions associated with the end of contracting out as part of the introduction of the single tier pension.”
5.07pm The Department of Health has published full details of its planned reforms to social care funding.
As trailed over the weekend, the reforms centre on a cap on costs of £75,000. Currently, the DH says, nearly one in five older people are hit with care bills in excess of £75,000.
The DH press release says this will kick in from 2017. As the Dilnot commissioning into social care funding was conducted in 2010, inflation means that the £75,000 cap in 2017 will be equivalent to a £61,000 cap at 2010 prices.
There will also be a new means test threshold of £123,000, the DH says. Currently, the threshold is £23,000, meaning that people with assets - including property -
The statement continues: “Taken together the measures are expected to directly benefit an extra 100,000 people who would not currently receive support under the existing system.”
More updates to follow.
3.28pm The scope of the NHS medical director’s review of hospitals with high mortality rates has widened to include another nine trusts, it has been announced. The prime minister announced last Wednesday that Sir Bruce Keogh would begin “immediate” inspections of five trusts, ahead of the start of a new inspection regime in the autumn. See the names of the nine trusts here.
11.17am The Department of Health has issued a statement about horsemeat.
Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies said: “We are working closely with the Food Standards Agency and the Department for Farming and Rural Affairs to investigate how horsemeat got into the UK food chain. There is nothing to suggest a safety risk to consumers who may have eaten the products. All of the retailers involved so far have removed potentially affected products from their shelves.
“Phenylbutazone is used in some people who suffer from ankylosing spondylitis, a type of arthritis. However, there are international checks to prevent phenylbutazone from entering the food chain because there is a low risk of serious effects - such as aplastic anaemia - in some people. As such, it presents a limited public health risk and CMO supports the FSA advice that it should be excluded from the food chain.
“There is currently no indication that phenylbutazone - bute - is present in any of the products that have been identified in this country but the FSA has ordered further tests to confirm this.
“It’s understandable that people will be concerned, but it is important to emphasise that, even if bute is found to be present at low levels, there is a very low risk indeed that it would cause any harm to health.”
11.06am Another HSJ news story: Calls for action to tackle sharp rise in emergency admissions. Research by data analysts Ssentif Intelligence found that the number of over-75s to undergo emergency readmission in England hit 201,000 in 2010-11, up from 103,000 in 2001-02.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said the figures were of huge concern for patients. “Too often patients, relatives and carers contact our helpline about inappropriate discharges, with patients being sent home without proper planned care in place, at a time when they are incredibly vulnerable. This sadly leads to readmissions, and sometimes even more tragic consequences.”
10.48am A couple of new stories this morning on HSJ. Jeremy Hunt says managers and clinicians should be struck off over the Mid Staffordshire scandal.
10.31am The Daily Mail doesn’t seem impressed by the social care funding plans. They have a picture of chancellor George Osborne looking suspicious with “stealth tax?” in the caption. “An OAP couple could still end up paying £200,000”, runs a downpage story.
10.19am The Independent picks up on some remarks Jeremy Hunt made on the BBC yesterday morning. Public urged to buy insurance to pay for £75,000 care bills, they report. The cap enables insurance companies to design products alongside pensions that will meet the costs of any care below that level, the report says. “Mr Hunt said: ‘We need to change the culture in our country so that, just as people make provision for their pensions in their 20s, their 30s, they understand they need to make provision for when they’re retired. So we also need to be a country where people prepare for their social care.’”
10.13am Meanwhile other papers are starting to pick holes in the plans. Almost 2 million pensioners will be denied state help, say the Telegraph
10.08am There’s lots in the papers this morning about social care, following the pre-announcement over the weekend that costs will be capped at £75,000 and will be funded via a freeze in the inheritance tax threshold. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is expected to make a formal announcement late this afternoon. Jeremy Hunt hails “fully funded solution”, runs the BBC story.
10.02am A breaking story this morning: Circle have announced they have been selected as preferred bidder to provide services from the Nottingham NHS treatment centre for a further five years. It has had the contract for five years already.
Our East of England reporter James Illman reports that three bids made it to the final round. Circle was chosen over Ramsay Healthcare and Nottingham University Hospitals Trust.
The tender document said the new contract was worth between £22m and £42m annually - a maximum value of £210m over five years.
The deal is a major boost for the company, as the Nottingham contract has accounted for a substantial proportion of its income. The firm has recently missed its financial targets at its NHS hospital Hinchingbrooke Health Care Trust.
10.00am There’s also this piece by shadow health secretary Andy Burnham on the Guardian website today. NHS targets went too far, he says, linking the report to his plans to fully join up health and social care.
9.57am The Telegraph’s Max Pemberton agreed with Mr Hunt on criminal charges for those responsible for the Mid Staffordshire scandal.
9.55am Over the weekend Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he wanted to see a police investigation into failings in care at Mid Staffordshire trust. If you didn’t catch it, the Daily Telegraph had the story.
9.51am National coverage of the Francis report is slowing down, but there are still a few pieces out there this morning. Trevor Kavanagh, writing in The Sun today, wants Sir David Nicholson to quit as chief executive of the NHS Commissioning Board. “Cut off NHS head to save the patient”, the headline says.
7.59am: Good morning, competition can deliver a better NHS says the chief clinical officer at Vale of York CCG. According to Mark Hayes, technology companies manage to integrate other providers’ services whilst being in direct competition with one another. “As a GP, I know the members of my “tribe” are pretty competitive in nature. We like to compare ourselves to our neighbours and score higher or do better than them, whether in quality and outcomes framework scores or patient feedback.”