Curbs on access to NHS care by migrants and responses to the Francis report will be included in future legislation announced today in the Queen’s Speech.
The government’s planned new laws, set out today by the Queen at the state opening of parliament, include a care bill and an immigration bill.
A government briefing on its plans states that the immigration bill “would regulate migrant access to the NHS, ensuring that temporary migrants make a contribution”.
Meanwhile, the care bill will enshrine in law some of the measures outlined already earlier this year by the government in response to the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Public Inquiry report.
The government briefing notes that there will be three strands to the “legislative response to failings at Stafford Hospital” in the care bill.
These include introducing “Ofsted-style ratings for hospitals and care homes that would allow patients and the public to compare organisations or services in a fair and balanced way”.
It also highlights the the new chief inspector of hospitals at the Care Quality Commission, who will be given “power to identify problems with the quality of care and ensure action is taken more effectively than before”.
In addition the bill will make “it a criminal offence for providers to provide false and misleading information about their performance” – the so-called statutory duty of candour, which Nursing Times has been calling for as part of its Speak Out Safely campaign.
The briefing document added that both Health Education England – the new organisation responsible for planning education and training for health professionals – and the Health Research Authority will be established as non-departmental public bodies.
This is in order to give them the “independence and stability they need to carry out their vital roles” and will “strengthen education and training for healthcare professionals and protect and promote the interests of people in health and social care research”, it stated.
As well as the Francis responses, the care bill will introduce long-awaited reform of social care funding, which was the focus of the 2011 Dilnot report.
The bill will create a “cap on care costs, extend the means test threshold for financial assistance and ensure no-one has to sell their home in their lifetime to pay for residential care”, the government’s briefing stated – though it failed to identify the level at which the cap would be set.
“The bill would give everyone peace of mind by protecting them from catastrophic costs,” the briefing document added.
Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “The speech shows the government is committed to a legislative response to some of the failings at Mid Staffordshire hospital, which we welcome.
“However, we continue to have some concerns,” he said. “Any proposals around inspections, a meaningful rating system for hospitals and tackling poor care, must address unsafe staffing levels, and the regulation of health care support workers.”
“The RCN has stated time and again that mandatory staffing levels should be enshrined in law. This is no less than patients deserve,” he added.
Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Instead of gimmicks and star [ratings], what patients and the NHS need is more staff to deliver care. The revolution in the Queen’s speech would have been the introduction of patient to nurse ratios – that is what nurses say is needed.”
He added: “The fairest way forward would be to fund social care through general taxation and provide a ‘national care service’, free at the point of need. Doing so would address the issues of underfunding.”
The Royal College of General Practitioners criticised the moves to tighten NHS access for immigrants. It warned against the danger of turning general practices into a “form of immigration control”.
RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada said: “Whilst the health system must not be abused and we must bring an end to health tourism, it is important that we do not overestimate the problem and that GPs are not placed in the invidious position of being the new border agency.
“General practice must remain the main access to health care within the NHS. GPs have a duty of care to all people seeking healthcare, and should not be expected to police access to healthcare and turn people away when they are at their most vulnerable.”
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