A Sinn Féin MLA has said that the ‘fear and distress’ caused by the care homes ‘fiasco’ in the North last week ’must not be repeated’.
Sue Ramsey was speaking following a difficult week for the Stormont Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Edwin Poots and the Health Trusts over The Transforming Your Care plan and the proposals to close statutory residential care homes.
The Transforming Your Care consultation ran over a 14 week period from 9 October 2012 to 15 January 2013.
On 19 March 2013, the Minister for Health announced that as part of the plan to bring care back to people’s own homes, that at least 50% of statutory residential care homes would close.
Last week the various hospital trusts announced that almost all the homes under them, would close.
After a huge controversy, the Trusts released a statement at the end of last week, which read:
“The Health and Social Care Board and Trusts have listened to the concerns of older people, relatives and staff expressed in recent days and will continue to ensure that every effort is made to manage all change in a planned and sensitive way.
A regional group, with support from Local Commissioning Groups, has already been set up to coordinate and direct activities in relation to changes to statutory residential care provision over the coming months and years.
It is absolutely essential that the views of older people, and in particular those currently living in residential care, are taken into consideration throughout the forthcoming local consultations.
It was proposed in the Vision to Action document, endorsed by the Minister at the end of the public consultation on Transforming Your Care, that at least 50% of statutory residential care homes would close. In Transforming Your Care we estimated this would take place over the next 3 years but could take as long as 5 years“.
Health and Social Care Trusts provide residential care for older people, elderly mentally infirm, and those with learning and physical disabilities.
There are now a total of 52 statutory residential care homes across Northern Ireland delivering services for this range of client groups, according to the statement.
The current proposals focus on those homes who provide services for older people.
The Ulster Unionist Party`s Health spokesperson, Roy Beggs called on Edwin Poots to ‘stand down’ over the controversy.
Mr Beggs said:
“The question is, who approved the apparently co-ordinated series of total closure announcements by the Trusts? Surely the Minister realised how sensitive the issue is, in which case he has failed to take control. Otherwise, he was unaware of the sensitivities, in which case he is not fit for office.
“So far the decisions made by Mr Poots and his advisers have shown crass insensitivity to elderly care homes residents. That arrogant attitude needs to change immediately. The buck stops with Edwin Poots.”
On Tuesday, Sue Ramsey, the Chair of the Assembly’s Heath Committee said Transforming Your Care is being introduced to make the health system better and bringing that care into the community but that the ’mess’ surrounding the care homes announcements shows that the minister has ‘taken his eye off the ball’ which is ‘unacceptable’:
“The fear and distress caused by the care homes fiasco must not be repeated and the minister must ensure such a mess does not happen again and that any confusion between his department and the Health Trusts are, unlike this time, cleared up immediately.
“He needs to ensure that that the needs and well-being of those affected are paramount prior to any further implementation of Transforming Your Care,” the West Belfast MLA added.
Health Minister Edwin Poots told the Assembly on Tuesday 7th May that he ’knows that several older people have been upset’ by the proposed changes and he apologised to them for any ‘unintentional stress that may have been generated by these consultation proposals’.
He told MLAs that he hopes that some of the ‘positive changes that Trusts were proposing can proceed’.
“Their intention and mine is to improve services and move away from a model of care that is no longer the best available and which involves many people living in homes that do not meet the standard expected,” he added.
“I am fully in support of the Transforming Your Care approach regarding the care of older people – that is, promoting independence, social inclusion, re-ablement, and support in the community, for as long as is possible.
But the process of engagement with older people, their families and the public has got to change and the pace of change needs to be planned in a coordinated way across all Trusts. That was not clear; therefore, I called a halt to individual Trusts consulting on proposed closures within their area.
We will now make a fresh start”.
The Minister concluded by saying that he wanted a better service for all our older people.
“To achieve this will require change in the model of service provision. But I want the management of that change to be as smooth as possible and that those affected, albeit small in number (about 330 in total), to have time to voice their opinion and be listened to. I expect their wishes to be respected. No-one’s care will be put in jeopardy.”
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