‘No choice’ in homes plan says group

Dromore’s Skeagh House Action Committee has disputed claims that statutory residential care home closures in recent years were ‘well managed’.

In a comprehensive response to the consultation document, ‘Making Choices: Meeting the current and future needs of older people’, the committee’s Mr Louis Boyle said there was no evidence supplied to support its suggestion that closures were well managed and that no-one wanted to go back to their previous model of care.

“The reality,” he said, “is that most of the homes closed by the Trusts in recent years were closed against the clearly expressed wishes of residents, staff, relatives, public representatives and community leaders.

“Most of the older people affected ended up in private residential or nursing home care, the same type of care that they moved out of.

“There is no evidence provided to show that the care they moved to was any better than, or as convenient as, the care provision they had to leave.”

On behalf of the action committee, Mr Boyle welcomed the paper as “an honest attempt to explain why homes are being closed”, but it was clear, he said, that the underlying policy of ‘Transforming Your Care’ - that of closing at least 50% of statutory homes - had not changed.Moreover, he said, the entire consultation process smacked of “fundamental dishonesty”, given that, in April last year, the Trusts decided to stop further admissions to their homes, a policy whch had not been reversed and one which, he believed, clearly indicated the Trusts saw no future for its own home.

Nor did choice, as referred to in the paper, come into the matter, he insisted.

“It is very clear that the choice of most existing residents and their relatives will be to remain in their existing homes. Since the intention remains to close most of these homes, this choice, however, will not be available to them,” he said.

Mr Boyle said everyone

supported the aim of enabling as many older people as possible to live in their own homes or other forms of supportive living; it was not a new policy but had been a strategic aim of social services for many decades.

“In spite of the success of this policy,” he argued, “there will continue to be a need for residential and nursing home care for older people.

“Service provision for older people should be seen as on a continuum, ranging from domiciliary based care, sheltered accommodation, residential care to nursing home care. Services on this continuum are often interdependent and they are not in many cases alternatives.”

The fact that more than 90% of residential and nursing home care in Britain was in the independent sector did not mean Northern Ireland should folllow suit.

“The closure of statutory homes will not lead to any fewer people being accommodated in residential and nursing home care,” he said. “In anticipating future need, no reference is made to the projected increase in the very elderly population over the next few years and indeed decades.

“Most residents in statutory homes are highly dependent and it is very unlikely than other than a very few will be able to live in supportive living or their former homes. There is not at this time sufficient alternative residential care provision in the independent sector.

“Given this, the closure of these homes will lead to a significant proportion of former residents ending up in nursing home or quasi-nursing home care in the private sector.

“When considering the availability of alternative services, proposed developments are not good enough. No home should be closed on the back of a proposed development nor a resident asked to leave until the actual alternative facility is up and running.”

Of building standards, in respect of which some statutory homes would fall short, he said the same standards were are not being applied to private sector homes where, in some cases, he said, deficiencies might equally be present.

No reference was made in the paper to location, he said, which for many residents, future residents and relatives was very important.