Poots denies U-turn over care home closures

The closure of residential care homes can now go ahead because better alternatives are available, the health minister has said.

In 2009, Edwin Poots proposed an Assembly motion calling on the then minister for health, Michael McGimpsey, to resist closing the NHS facilities – telling Mr McGimpsey he rejected the assertion there was “no option” to closures.

“Let me put that notion to bed; it is inaccurate,” Mr Poots said at the time. “The efficiency savings need to be made in administration, not in the frontline services.”

Earlier this week it was announced that the Northern Trust would close around half of its provision within three years and stop providing residential care entirely in the longer term.

That announcement was followed by confirmation yesterday that the Southern Trust has already ceased admitting long-term residents to its five NHS homes as part of an overall closure plan.

Both the TUV and Ulster Unionists have rounded on the current minister saying his policy represents a U-turn, and questioned if he can guarantee suitable alternatives.

Speaking on Friday, TUV leader Jim Allister said: “I have today tabled the very same motion Mr Poots tabled back in 2009 because he is doing the very thing he attacked a previous UUP minister for doing, and using the same threadbare arguments to defend the indefensible.”

Mr Allister added: “What a difference four years has made.”

Ulster Unionist health spokesman Roy Beggs has also rounded on the current minister saying: “What has caused Mr Poots to do a complete policy U-turn?”

The East Antrim MLA said: “What has changed Mr Poots’ mind? Can he guarantee to the many vulnerable residents of residential homes and their relatives, and those that may become vulnerable in the future, that alternative arrangements are already in place to accommodate their needs?”

Mr Poots has defended his position: “What is different now is that there actually is a policy in place to provide better care for our elderly population and create packages allowing people to stay where they want to stay.”

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