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23.12.16

May rejects initial cross-party involvement in social care review

A cross-party commission must be established to look at how to deliver a sustainable care system, the chair of the Health Select Committee has told Theresa May following the prime minister’s appearance before the Liaison Committee earlier this week.

The prime minister told the committee, which is made up of the heads of the House of Commons select committees, that she admitted there were “pressures” on social care.

She said that her government was “already starting to look at” ensuring the sector’s long-term sustainability, accusing previous governments of “ducking the issue”.

May added that the review would not come to any conclusions immediately, and that the government “wanted Parliament to have an opportunity” to look at the eventual proposals.

However, she rejected suggestions from Clive Betts, the chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee, for all parties to be involved from the beginning, arguing that all parties were involved in producing the Dilnot proposals and then some MPs opposed the final results.

Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, chair of the Health Select Committee, said: “The prime minister has confirmed that the government is undertaking work to look at the longer term sustainable funding for social care. But this needs to be looked at together with NHS funding and not in isolation.

“We urge the government to work on long-term sustainable funding for an integrated health and social care system on a cross party basis at the earliest possible stage.”

When asked by Dr Wollaston during the session if the review would look at social care and the NHS together, May said that it was “focused on social care” but would look at “how it interacts with health”.

May also defended the government’s decision to raise the social care precept to 3%, which local authorities have said is not enough to fix the crisis.

The prime minister admitted that introducing a 3% rise for two years instead of a 2% rise for three years meant there was no overall increase, but said that “bringing forward the money” was worth doing. She added that it was “wrong to assume that the only solution in social care is the solution about funding”.

During the session, Meg Hillier, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, put it to the prime minister that the seven-day NHS was not “properly costed” and asked what the government would do if demand for NHS services outstrips the resources available.

May replied that delivery of the seven-day NHS was different in across country, and that the government should focus on making sure the NHS was able to meet its efficiency targets over the next five years.

In addition, Dr Wollaston asked if May would set out how the government would monitor process on reducing the gap in life expectancy, which the prime minister said she wanted to tackle in her first speech upon taking office.

May replied that it was “very difficult” to set out these measures and the government should avoid the risk of focusing on “inputs rather than outcomes”.

Dr Wollaston accused the government of having “missed opportunities” in promoting public health because some, such as changing the way foods were marketed, were “politically challenging”, pointing to the widely criticised childhood obesity strategy as an example.

May replied that the government was doing its part, including by introducing the levy on soft drinks.

(Image c. PA Wire/PA Images)

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