Stormont deadlock means plan to fine failing care homes can’t be implemented, says DoH

Dunmurry Manor care home was subject to a major investigation
Dunmurry Manor care home was subject to a major investigation

Proposals to penalise failing private care homes financially can’t be implemented due to the political deadlock at Stormont, the Department of Health has said.

A 59-point plan to change the way care for older people is “commissioned, regulated, monitored and delivered” was put forward in June by the Commissioner for Older People, Eddie Lynch, after a major investigation uncovered failings at Dunmurry Manor care home on the outskirts of Belfast.

The probe, launched by Mr Lynch after concerns were raised by families and whistle-blowers, found that “some residents who were extremely vulnerable, living with dementia, experienced a horrific catalogue of inhuman and degrading treatment, with many spending their last few months living in appalling circumstances”.

The owner of the home, a company known as Runwood Homes Ltd, apologised following the publication of the investigation findings.

The PSNI also confirmed last month that it has launched a criminal investigation into “allegations concerning the treatment and care provided to residents” at Dunmurry Manor.

The 59-point plan set out by Mr Lynch included a recommendation that “financial penalties” on private care home providers are “strengthened” if it is found that the homes aren’t up to standards.

Another recommendation was for the introduction of a “rating system” for care homes.

Neither of those proposals can be taken forward because of the political impasse at Stormont, the Department of Health has said.

In its response to the commissioner’s point-by-point plan, the department said it accepted the majority of the proposals but said an elected minister of health would be needed to make a decision on more than a quarter.

Permanent Secretary at the department of health, Richard Pengelly, said: “As our response to the commissioner’s recommendations makes clear, we have taken this report very seriously, and have set out a package of measures that we will now take forward.”

He added: “While we will now work to deliver against these commitments, it must be recognised that, in the absence of ministers, there are a number of recommendations which we are unable to action.

“However, the public should be assured that we are giving these issues due consideration and we will provide appropriate advice on these to any incoming minister.”

The commissioner said he will examine the department’s response “very carefully”.