Ulster Unionist Party MLA Roy Beggs Jnr has said that the announcement of a new round of consultations in the autumn on the future of NHS Residential Care Homes in Northern Ireland has created yet more confusion and anxiety for residents and their relatives.
Mr Beggs, who has been working with friends and relatives of residents in East Antrim’s 3 NHS Trust Residential Home for the past year, said:
“In May, Health Minister Edwin Poots announced that the consultation process on Residential Care Home closure- just launched by the individual Health Trusts- had been stopped. The official spin was that Mr Poots had stepped in and saved the Homes. That in reality was never the case. There was no change whatsoever on his policy of closing, or running down all NHS Residential Care Home across Northern Ireland. It is now clear that it was only a temporary pause to take the pressure off the Minister and his party.
The only real U-turn in this sorry saga was performed previously by the DUP and Minister Poots. In 2009 he was proposing motions in the Assembly expressing total opposition to proposed Residential Home closures across Northern Ireland. He was particularly vocal about the threat to Skeagh House Dromore, in his own consistency. He has yet to explain his 180 degree turn which was taken when he accepted- in full – the proposals in Transforming your Care on Residential Homes. This policy envisages all Statutory Homes closing- either in the short or medium term.
The new statement from the Health and Social Care Board, which has given the task of implementing the Minister’s closure policy, is written mostly in barely decipherable official speak and health professional jargon. But what is clear, is that the policy of homes closure remains. The only things which have changed are the method and timescale. Crucially the current non admission policy is underscored. Even if immediate closure is not on the agenda, this policy will ultimately result in the closure by stealth of every NHS Residential Care Home including Lisgarel, Joymount and Clonmore.
The only crumb of comfort I can take from the latest document is the following line, “It is envisaged that local flexibility will be built into all measures and any associated plans acknowledging that Trusts are in different places in taking forward service changes around statutory homes. This will be in conjunction with Local Commissioning Groups.”
If this means that in some areas where there is no adequate alternative provision for the current residents of NHS Residential Care, the existing Home will stay, then that will be welcomed. That issue really must be teased out and clarified in the weeks to come.
There is much to be welcomed in the Transforming Your Care Health proposals which copver the whole range of health and social service provision in Northern Ireland. However, in terms of elder care, there needs to be a range of alternative support, locally accessible to family and friends.
Continuing to live at home or in supported living accommodation is undoubtedly the best option for some. However, in many areas there is non-existent supported housing provision, and a lack of affordable residential care. In these areas, the existing NHS Care Homes must be kept as part of the mix. Statutory Residential homes should also continue to have a role in respite care, rehabilitation and assisting hospitals during periods of winter pressure.”