Bishop of Bristol calls for greater priority on standards and funding for residential care

On 10th December 2015 the House of Lords debated a motion from  Baroness Wheeler “That this House takes note of the quality and viability of the residential care sector in the light of the Government’s decision to delay the implementation of the care cost cap.” The Bishop of Bristol, Rt Revd Mike Hill, spoke in the debate, calling for Government to give more priority to residential care standards and funding.

Bishop of Bristol June 2015The Lord Bishop of Bristol: My Lords, I join other Members of your Lordships’ House in thanking the noble Baroness for securing this debate. I admired her high-paced delivery of a lot of information without losing any clarity. Like the noble Baroness, I hope that this will not become a debate where we just trade statistics across the House, because in the end, as the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, has just drawn our attention to, this is about people and their lives, and therefore it is a matter that should be, and is, of great concern to us all.

If I stand in my bathroom and look out across the fields in north Bristol, I see the shell of Winterbourne View standing there as a testimony of what can go wrong with residential care when the business model is bust and the whole thing falls apart. It pains me to look at that building day by day.

Your Lordships have made it very clear, through the competence of this debate, that we have to do better. Just this morning when I turned on my radio, I heard that the Nuffield Trust is saying there is going to be a massive crisis this winter in the National Health Service, because a lot of people who are in hospital really should be in residential care but there is no space for them. We all know well—certainly, your Lordships know well—that we have an ageing population. More people now live in single-occupancy homes. People are often, sadly, estranged from or live a long way away from their families. Although I agree with the comments made this afternoon about complementary domiciliary care, we are here to talk about residential care and what that might look like going forward.

The chairman of the Commission on Residential Care, Paul Burstow, having noted, as the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, said, that there are some very good examples of care, said:

“There are some tough messages. The brand of residential care is fatally damaged. Unloved, even feared, for most people residential care is not a positive choice. Linked in the public mind to a loss of independence, residential care is seen as a place of last resort.”

We heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Wheeler, about the Care Quality Commission’s evidence. We have heard about ResPublica, which has revealed the devastating fact that 37,000 beds will be lost between now and 2020.

I remember, back in the 1990s, when I was more closely allied to investment institutions, there was quite a move for investment institutions to invest in residential care. If I recall rightly, even the Church Commissioners looked at that. Now, we seem to be in a very different place. We have heard about Southern Cross, and about Four Seasons. I know the Minister will be concerned about this issue, but to my mind it does create a massive void in terms of how we are going to deal with it. I am not clear, as yet, from what I have heard from the spending review, that the plan thus far will be able to fill that void.

I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, and to the noble Lord, Lord Lansley, for mentioning Dilnot. The Dilnot report was a very important piece of work which I hope will not get lost. I hope the Minister will feel able to comment on exactly where we go with that.

There is a lot of anxiety, especially about documented failures in the care system. I think it was Oscar Wilde who said that biography lends terror to death. One might slightly bastardise his comment and say that residential care lends a bit of terror to those who know or feel that they might need residential care going forward. We have had Winterbourne View and Hadleigh House in Lincolnshire, and we heard the Minister this morning repeat a Statement about the terrible abdication of care in Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust. I welcome the fact that the Government and the NHS are now placing a renewed emphasis on palliative care and end-of-life services, but can the Minister assure us that it is equally essential that the priority being given to end-of-life services be applied adequately to residential care?

There is anxiety about this whole issue. Let me end where I started, by reminding your Lordships, as several noble Lords have reminded the House, that in the end this is about people. It is about the kind of care they might get, and how we face the cost of that. It is a particular anxiety, I guess, for those people who do not have what are called fat pensions or easily realisable assets to pay for their care—in other words, some of the poorest people in our land. The question remains for me: who will care for these vulnerable people when they can no longer look after themselves? We are facing a huge problem and I look forward greatly to hearing the Minister’s response to many of the questions raised by noble Lords.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Prior of Brampton) (Con) [extract] : …

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Bristol importantly reminded us that statistics are all very well but these statistics are all individual people. He said that he looked out over Winterbourne View, where there was appalling care. Of course, that was not a result of lack of resources but the result of a rotten culture in that organisation. He also talked about family disintegration. He said that residential care is sometimes regarded as a place of last resort, whereas, as we know, much residential care, far from being a place of last resort can be a wonderful place for people to spend the end of their lives…



%d bloggers like this: