Mixed reception for Government health and care plans
8th May 2013 - There's been a mixed reception to the Government's plans for the year ahead for health and care detailed in the Queen's Speech. Most negative reaction centres on two items not included in the plans: plain cigarette packaging and a minimum unit price for alcohol for England.
Among the measures announced were:
A cap on social care costs at £72,000 will be brought-in from April 2016 with the aim of avoiding pensioners having to sell their homes to fund care.
The plans would also give a right for millions of carers in England to receive support from their local council. There's also protection if care homes go out of business.
Personal budgets for care will also be brought in.
Reacting to the announcement in a statement, Michelle Mitchell, charity director general at Age UK says: "The legislation announced today in the Queen's Speech has the potential to transform our crumbling, unfair social care system for current and future generations of older people, but to have any chance in succeeding we need to see the legislation twinned with a commitment in the spending review for increased spending on social care."
Plans were announced for a new system of tax-free childcare vouchers for working families for 20% of childcare costs. Eventually it will give up to £6,000 of support a year for children up to the age of 12. The scheme won’t start to be phased-in until 2015-16.
Responding to the failings at Stafford Hospital in which patients died unnecessarily, new measures aimed at high standards in the NHS in England were announced. Ofsted-style ratings, similar to those given for schools, would be awarded to hospitals and care homes after their performance was assessed.
More powers will be given to the watchdog CQC and it will become an offence to provide false and misleading information about the performance of a hospital or care home.
Asbestos and cancer
Another health announcement covered people whose health has been affected by asbestos.
The Mesothelioma Bill will aim to ensure sufferers of this asbestos-related cancer receive payments where no liable employer or insurer can be traced.
Among the measures expected but not announced were:
Plain cigarette packaging
Ministers had been looking at following Australia's lead and forcing the sale of cigarettes in plain packaging to help discourage younger people taking up the habit.
A number of health groups have issued statements expressing their disappointment about this being left out of the Queen's Speech.
Eileen Streets, director of tobacco control at Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, says: "It appears the government has lost its bottle on introducing plain packaging, which aims to stop young people taking up smoking."
Simon Gillespie, chief executive at the British Heart Foundation says: "A gilt-edged opportunity for progressive and world-class reform has slipped through Westminster’s fingers.