Care Merger Plan Falls Off The Agenda

Against expectations, legislation to merge the health and social care inspectorates is about to be dropped from the Queen’s speech. It’s not too hard to guess why. The government has still not got over the embarrassment of accepting defeat on a plan to amalgamate the five criminal justice regulators

John Reid, the home secretary, had to back down in the face of a rebellion in the House of Lords against tinkering with the authority of the chief inspector of prisons.

This was a timely warning for Lord Warner, the health minister who was working on plans to merge the Healthcare Commission, the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) and the Mental Health Act Commission. He was acting under instruction from Gordon Brown who announced the merger in his pre-election budget as part of an attempt to outflank the Tories’ campaign for a cut in Whitehall bureaucracy. Brown promised to amalgamate the three health inspectorates by 2008. Don’t bet now on it happening before 2009.

There may be savings to be made and benefits from greater consistency of regulation, but the merger would not look good if patients and service users die as a result of inadequate regulation.

The point is likely to have been made by the department’s new policy adviser on social care. Dame Denise Platt just happens to chair the CSCI, where she greeted the original merger announcement with undisguised fury.