Views sought on care home closures

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 22nd August 2011 - DUP MLAs Edwin Poots pictured after their meeting with the Parole Commissioners in Bedford Street, Belfast.
Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye. The Health Minister and Health and Social Care Board are taking a fresh look at how to implement Transforming Your Care but the new plans have been described as unclear.

Health Minister Edwin Poots has asked the Health and Social Care Board to gather the views of residents of state-owned care homes and their families, in a bid to restart this part of the Transforming Your Care programme.

“It is unacceptable that any older person should feel distressed because of proposals for change,” he commented. “The central aim of this process is to improve the quality of care for older people and deliver the best possible outcomes. I want to again send out a clear message to older people that there will be genuine consultation and their views will be heard. No-one’s care will be put in jeopardy.”

Two public consultations will be held, with the first taking place between October and January. Health and social care trusts will be expected to report back to the board with their revised proposals in early 2014.

Finalised proposals will then be put out for a further public consultation. The board wants to encourage an “open and honest discussion” about any proposed changes.

The process will be led by Fionnuala McAndrew, the Health and Social Care Board’s Director of Social Care and Children, who has written to all residents to explain what will happen next.

“The board acknowledges that proposals announced earlier this year caused some residents and their families concern about their future care arrangements and how any change might be managed,” McAndrew remarked.

In her meetings with the trusts since then, she had come across examples of how changes in care homes had been managed in a way that suited residents, their families and staff.

“I do not want to stop these changes taking place,” she affirmed. “However, there still needs to be clarity about the future role and function of the remaining statutory homes and I intend to start this process in October.”

McAndrew concluded: “No final decisions have been made at this stage, however, the Board firmly believes that our services need to change in line with Transforming Your Care to deliver better care for older people which will enable them to stay at home and remain independent where possible, for as long as possible.”

Poots had instructed the health and social care trusts to halt their closure plans after a week of rushed announcements from the trusts in May caused confusion and distress for residents. The principles of Transforming Your Care have been broadly accepted in the Assembly but MLAs have been more sceptical about home closures since the May announcements.

UUP health spokesman Roy Beggs was the most vocal critic of the Health and Social Care Board’s new plan, saying that it was “mostly written in almost indecipherable official speak and health professional jargon”. Beggs claimed that it would lead to the closure of all homes.

“There is much to be welcomed in the Transforming Your Care Health proposals,” he commented. “Continuing to live at home or in supported living accommodation is undoubtedly the best option for some.

“However, in some areas there is non-existent supported housing provision and a lack of affordable residential care. In these areas, the existing care homes must be kept as part of the mix.” He added that statutory residential homes should also continue to have a role in respite care, rehabilitation and helping hospitals over the winter when they are under most pressure. Bryson: Ready for the challenges

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