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Liam Fox: Caring properly for older people

At the morning press conference, Shadow Health Secretary Dr Liam Fox outlined the Conservative Party's plans for long term care for the elderly. He said:

"The elderly are one of the groups which has been treated most badly by Labour.

"Before the last Election, Tony Blair said that it was an obscenity for older people to be forced to sell their homes to pay for long term care.

"Yet since Tony Blair became Prime Minister, over 160,000 people have been forced to do just that. Many people find it completely unfair that the State should raid the assets of people who have worked hard and saved during their lives, while providing in full for others.

"The next Conservative Government will tackle this injustice. We will ensure that responsible and thrifty people who have made reasonable provision for the expected costs of long term care are protected from the loss of all they have saved and worked for throughout their lives.

"In the meantime, Labour's mismanagement of the care homes sector has inflicted considerable suffering on huge numbers of older people. The Care Standards Act has heaped regulations upon care home owners. Under-funding by Social Services Departments has resulted in hundreds of homes closing. Tens of thousands of care home beds have been lost, resulting in increased bed blocking in hospitals.

"For example, research which we carried out earlier this month revealed that bed blocking meant very large numbers of hospital beds in different parts of the country could not be used. The equivalent of five wards were closed in East Gloucestershire, four in Leicester and another three each in Eastbourne and North Staffordshire.

"The next Conservative Government will tackle this crisis. In allocating the additional money which we have pledged for health and social services, we will urgently review the funding balance between the acute and community sectors.

"This will result in better overall care by preventing unnecessary admissions and delayed discharges. It would also restore confidence to the battered care home sector, and begin the process of increasing capacity.

"On a more individual basis, I know from my own time as a GP the frustration and isolation which many older people endure because of hearing difficulties. Worse still, many of them suffer unnecessarily because of the chronic state of hearing aid technology in this country.

"Today's hearing aids are based on outdated 1970s analogue technology, and manufactured in China as the cheapest available supplier.

"The next Conservative Government will make available digital hearing aids to all who will benefit from them.

"Finally, and most importantly, as a doctor, the underlying principle of Conservative health policy is our belief that the sickest must be treated first. This will include the terminally ill, and those requiring palliative care.

"The manner in which we treat our dying is surely a measure of how civilised a society we really are. They deserve the right to care in a humane and dignified environment.

"The next Conservative Government will increase hospice funding to 40%, to ensure that hospices can continue the vital caring work they do."

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