Britain’s care time bomb is “one of the biggest commercial opportunities” for private firms, Jeremy Hunt has said.
The Health Secretary made the eyebrow-raising remarks today as he was grilled by MPs on the influential Health Select Committee.
He also suggested more people could start saving for their own care, treating the issue like society treats pension pots.
It comes as care homes fear they will be left penniless by the costs of the National Living Wage – throwing council-run services into the lurch.
Tory MP Maggie Throup asked if private firms, facing a cocktail of higher costs, an ageing population and stricter standards, could also be forced to bow out of providing care.
Yet Mr Hunt said although it was a “very concerning situation”, he expected “many” private firms would be willing to fill in – because they see the potential for profit.
He told the committee the government had already taken the National Living Wage into account when doing its sums.
He added: “If there are people who are exiting the market because they don’t like the much greater scrutiny over standards of care, then that’s their choice – but I think it’s the right thing for us as a society.
“At the same time I would also say that in many parts of the world businesses, because many of these organisations are private businesses, are looking at the ageing population as one of the biggest commercial opportunities.
“Because this is an area that all of us are going to spend much more money on as time goes on, both for our own care and those of our loved ones.
“So it’s important not to take a short-sighted approach as to the opportunities in that market.
“This is a section of the economy going forward where were are going to be spending more and more money, both publicly and privately.”
The exchange comes weeks after care providers claimed homes could be forced to close because of a lack of funds.
Town halls are being allowed to raise council tax by 2% to help meet spiralling care costs for the elderly.
The government claims the move could raise £2bn extra a year by 2020 – but the Local Government Association said the boost in 2016-17 could be wiped out by the cost of the £7.20-an-hour National Living Wage.
Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England which represents care providers, said last month: “If you’re poor and you’re old in Britain, you’re in trouble now. The state cannot afford to take care of you anymore.
“Everyone seems to think the state will come to your rescue if you need help in old age, but they won’t anymore, because they won’t be able to afford it.”
In another exchange today, Mr Hunt revealed one reason for shelving the Tories’ £72,000 ‘care cap’ until 2020 was because a private insurance market couldn’t be created to go with it.
The Health Secretary said the policy was “designed” to encourage life insurance firms to create policies to cover the cost up to £72,000.
But he said: “We saw no signs of that insurance market being developed so we need to rethink.”
Although he insisted the cap was still government policy he said: “I think the long term funding over the next few decades of our own social care is something we need to give a lot more thought to as a society.
“I think we decided after the war that it was incredibly important for us to be a society where the norm was for people to save for their pensions.
“And then we make some provision for people who aren’t able to save as much as they perhaps need to.
“I think we need to go through that same process of thinking for social care costs, given that we’re all going to live for much longer and the final few years of our life are likely to need expensive social care.”
Mr Hunt faced two and a half hours of questioning today as chiefs resumed negotiations with junior doctors over his 7-day NHS contract.
He defended axing bursaries for student nurses and replace them with loans, saying: “This can be a very beneficial way of increasing the number of places and increasing the number of people from poorer backgrounds.”
And he claimed the NHS was already bringing down the bill for agency staff after it “exploded” from £2.5bn to £3.7bn in recent years.
In one tense exchange Mr Hunt was questioned repeatedly about his ‘flawed’ claims NHS patients are more likely to die on weekends.
SNP MP Dr Philippa Whitford blasted: “Is it not beholden on the Secretary of State to actually know what the problem is before spending billions to fix it?”
But he replied: “I’m not an academic but I think the mistake for a Health Secretary is to look at the overwhelming amount of evidence there is of a weekend effect and decide to get off the hook by disputing the methodology.”
So what do you think?
Tell us in the comments.
Source : http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/jeremy-hunt-says-britains-care-7932080