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Care Bill promises joined up health and social care

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Ministers have pledged that people will see their health and social care 'better joined up' and be reassured that they will not have to pay 'astronomical care costs', following the publication of the Care Bill last week.

The government has pledged that 'the gap will be closed' by 2018.

The Care Bill has been drawn up to help drive quality of care, following the findings of the Francis Inquiry into events at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. It will also include improvements to the care system following a consultation with people and organisations across the health and care system. The Bill will create a single law that replaces more than a dozen pieces of legislation dating back to the post-war period.

The Bill promised no one will have to sell their home in their lifetime to pay for the costs of living in a care home later in life. The government has also set a cap of on what ministers have described as 'reasonable care costs' and financial support for more people. The cap has not yet been decided and it is understood it will be means tested and set to different levels for various age groups.

The government is also introducing Ofsted-style ratings for hospitals and care homes, making quality as important as finance during inspections and strengthening training for staff.

It is hoped the Bill will join up care, by enshrining in law that everyone should have a personal care plan, access to a personal budget and that carers, for the first time, will have a right to get support themselves if they are found to have eligible needs. There will also be a national minimum eligibility threshold across the country.

The Bill introduces a legal right for everyone with a care and support plan (or support plan) to have a personal budget, which they can receive as a direct payment.

A focus on people's wellbeing will see more done to keep people well. This will include a more all-encompassing assessment process that considers a person's capabilities and what they can achieve themselves.

Launching the Bill on Friday care services minister Norman Lamb also confirmed the creation of the chief inspector role for hospitals and that the CQC would be afforded 'stronger' powers to expose poor care.

Mr Lamb said: 'For the first time in a generation we are addressing the pressing need to support people when they reach crisis point and need help most. People will finally be able to plan for their later years and not have to fear being saddled with catastrophic costs to pay for care.'

The news comes as figures show elderly hospital patients are facing increasing delays for social care help.

The analysis of government figures by Age UK showed that hospital patients were waiting for more than 30 days on average for a care home place - 13% longer than three years ago.

Michelle Mitchell, charity director general of Age UK, welcomed Mr Lamb's announcement. She said: 'Waiting in hospital needlessly not only wastes NHS resources but it can also undermine an older person's recovery and be profoundly upsetting for them and their families as a result.

'We are very worried that the growing crisis in social care is having a significant impact on the length of time that older people are having to stay in hospital waiting for social care support to be put in place.

'The steep rise in the length of time people are waiting for a care home place, home care or adaptations - significantly above the general rise in delayed discharge waits - suggests that something has gone seriously wrong in the transition from hospital to home or residential care during the time when we know social care spending has fallen dramatically.

'We need the Care Support Bill to be twinned with both an emergency injection of funds to shore up the current system and a long term commitment to finding sufficient resources to make sure that every older person gets the care they need, when they need it.'

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