East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs Jnr has led a debate on health and social care in East Antrim at the Northern Ireland Assembly. In his speech he referred to the strong perception that services and facilities had been removed from the East Antrim area in recent years, and called for clarity regarding the future of local Residential Care Homes such as Lisgarel, Joymount and Clonmore.
The Ulster Unionist MLA stated the reason for raising the issue. “It can be summed up in one word: equality. Are my East Antrim constituents getting equal treatment when it comes to accessing health and social care provision? I am concerned that many are not.”
He went on to describe the problems with the Acute Hospital at Antrim and then went on to focus on domiciliary and community care for the elderly
“Down the years, there have been promises of new local facilities and replacement services in east Antrim made by Trusts, Boards and Ministers, but very little has ever materialised. For example, the Carrickfergus Day Centre closed in the past 10 years, and there was an expectation that a new facility would be built within a short time. That did not happen.
Another important area is care for the elderly, which is in the Compton report, ‘Transforming Your Care’. I want to concentrate on that for a period. Part of the issue in the report concerns community and nursing and residential care homes. Again, anyone who, like me, has been a public representatives since 1998 will be familiar with the reports produced by the health boards, the trusts, the Department and its consultants. The language in them is sometimes too full of jargon to be understood easily by the layperson, but the direction of travel is clear and consistent. The people who run the health service in Northern Ireland want to keep older people out of institutional care settings, maintain them in their own home for as long as possible and then have the private sector cater for those who need to go into care or a nursing home. Fine, but is there capacity for domiciliary and community care? Can even the current demands of care in the community be met? It was not that long ago that I was approached by a constituent who had a disabled son who could not return home from hospital for many weeks because there were no carers available to meet his needs.
Clearly, that aspect of the service needs to be upgraded. When it bedded down, it was much preferable, and the individual concerned and his family were much more content that he continued to live and be served in his home.
I also wish to relay my personal experience of two of my extended family members who required support from the health service over the summer months. These were two elderly patients who required hospital treatment, and they were very rapidly returned to their own homes to receive domiciliary care.
In those instances, I had a feeling that it was much too fast, and there was concern in the family at the speed at which both of them had been returned home. Sadly, within a short period, both had to be returned to hospital, to the accident and emergency unit. Interestingly, after they had recovered in hospital, they were discharged to Clonmore House residential care home, where they received at least a full week of rehabilitation and support each. I visited that home at that time, and I have to be complimentary of the staff and the home. When both patients returned home to their normal setting, they were able to adapt and adjust with the support package that was available and with family support. However, I express concern that they were perhaps discharged from hospital too rapidly and without sufficient rehabilitation. “
Mr Beggs, who has just been appointed the Ulster Unionist Party’s spokesman on health then called for the Minister to bring some clarity to the status of the Compton Report and its ancillary implementation plans.
“’Transforming Your Care’, which is known as the Compton report, was published in December 2011 and contains some 99 recommendations. A draft population plan has been published on the Northern Health and Social Care Trust website, but the Minister has indicated that there is a certain level of doubt over the status of that report. I understand that it was to be considered over the summer period and that adjustments may be made before the end of December before going into consultation.
One recommendation in that report was for all statutory residential care homes, of which there are 11 at present with 220 permanent residents, to close. It would be helpful to have clarity on the position of that report and the position of the care homes in my constituency and the others that will be affected. There is concern in the community, and I am sure that the Minister is aware of it. It is unfortunate that a draft plan has been put out and left hanging for so long, yet there is uncertainty about its status and whether or not that is exactly what is planned. “