HEALTH – CARE HOMES IN THE SOUTH–EAST – 29 October 2002

Dr Julian Lewis: If he [Alan Milburn] will make a statement on the availability of care home places in the south-east?

[Jacqui Smith: Department of Health figures show that, as of March 2001, there were 91,895 care home places in the south- east. Figures produced by the independent analysts Laing and Buisson suggested that occupancy levels in the southern Home Counties in March 2002 were 90.8 percent in residential homes, and 91.8 percent in nursing homes. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced to the House in July, the provision of an extra £1 billion a year in real terms for social services for older people by 2006 will ensure more support to help more people who need care in residential and nursing homes.]

[SUPPLEMENTARY:] You would never guess from that answer, Mr. Speaker, that between April 1998 and April of this year, 916 care home places have gone in Hampshire alone – just under 10 percent of the total. Is that not due largely to the unrealistic demands put on care homes through the Government's legislation of 2000? Is not the fact that the Government are backtracking on that legislation an admission that they got it badly wrong?

[Jacqui Smith: I will keep it snappy. We listened to the concerns of care home owners and we acted on them. The hon. Gentleman cannot complain about the support that this Government are putting into care homes: increases in fees, funded by extra investment that he and his party failed to support.]