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Editor’s blog Wednesday 29 September 2010: Dorrell states obvious on elderly healthcare, and is right

Stephen Dorrell's comments to BBC News today again show a man whose chairmanship of the Health Select Committee promises to be both use and ornament.

He rightly suggests that "people are being charged for care that they would have got free from the NHS 20 or 30 years ago. In effect there has been a change in the definition of what constitutes NHS care and that has happened without proper debate.

"Unfortunately, it has been ignored because both politically and financially it is tricky for politicians to face up to it. But because it has not been done in a planned way there is great unfairness in the system. We see examples of cost shunting and bureaucracy that cause individuals problems.

"I would not want to see a return to the old system of geriatric hospitals - care is much better now - but you have to question whether it is fair that this group of people are being charged in this way?"

It is an article of faith in the Catechism Of Things That Are Not Surprising. It is also something that needs to be said.

The article cites figures from private healthcare analysts Laing and Buisson, which record the fall in the number of geriatric beds from more than 80,000 in 1988 to 16,300 last year. Over the same period, nursing home places more than doubled from 78,300 to 179,400.

It is interesting that the point echoes Andy Burnham's iteration of his plan for a National Care Service in his speech this morning. The huge acrimony caused between Burnham, former Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb on one side and Health Secretary Andrew Lansley on the ither has not been forgotten by any of the three - or indeed, many Whitehall insiders.

Could a cross-party consensus - even if it is notyet across the whole of parties - be emerging over the broadly fictional health-social care interface?