DUP Health Minister Edwin Poots was facing calls yesterday to clarify whether the non-admissions policy at state-run residential care homes will be lifted.
The question was posed from politicians after a U-turn on an earlier decision to close and wind down residential care homes across the Province as part of the Transforming Your Care policy.
In a statement yesterday, Minister Poots reassured residents at 18 statutory residential care homes that they will be allowed to remain in their homes “for as long as they wish and so long as their needs can continue to be met there”.
He said there is significant spare capacity in homes and that he has tasked officials to examine how to make best use of statutory residential homes.
“I am keen to see an expanded role for care homes – providing respite care and, given the current pressures in our hospital system, potential step-down provision following discharge from hospital,” he said.
“My officials will also explore the potential for residential facilities to serve as broader hubs for older people’s services.
“The onus is on the HSC [Health and Social Care] to demonstrate to older people that new alternatives to statutory homes are a better option for them. This will require the full range of choices, such as assisted living, actually being available to people across all parts of the Province.”
He added that the Health Trusts’ admissions policies “are being reviewed and I will consider the recommendations from the [HSC] Board on this matter”.
However, UUP health spokesman Roy Beggs yesterday said that while the decision on care homes is “welcome news”, until the non-admissions policy is lifted, closure of the homes “remains inevitable”.
“The news that these 18 care homes will now remain open for as long as the existing residents want to stay in them is a welcome development, but the lack of detail in the announcement and the Minister’s ensuing vagueness on the issue has left far too many unanswered questions,” he added.
“Either the homes are going to be allowed to admit new permanent residents – providing quality, affordable and local care – or they will not.
“Without new residents then I am sorry, but the Minister’s announcement has only delayed the closure of the homes, not stopped them.”
Alliance health spokesperson, Kieran McCarthy MLA, also called for “clarity”, adding that “a lot of people will be angry if this turns out to be an election stunt”.
Limavady TUV councillor Boyd Douglas questioned whether the announcement “only amounts to a stay of execution for Thackeray Place and other homes unless the ban on admissions is lifted”.