Alliance Strangford MLA Kellie Armstrong has said the South-Eastern Health and Social Care Trust (SEHSCT) is failing to provide appropriate domiciliary care for older patients along the Ards Peninsula.
Ms Armstrong said she had been approached by several constituents who were concerned about older family members being left without such care for weeks on end. She added the situation was pushing many older people into financial difficulties, as they had to provide their own care due to the SEHSCT being “unable or unwilling” to do so.
She said: “The SEHSCT has a statutory duty to provide care but have done little to nothing to address the lack of provision currently available in rural areas. One reason given to me was the contracted care provider has pulled out, which could be acceptable if this issue wasn’t a growing one for the past few months.
“The number of people without a permanent care package here has been growing – with over 60 now – but to date, the SEHSCT has been unable to get a regular care provider, instead relying on circulating particular ‘cases’ on a list which may or may not be picked up by care providers, who have the capacity to temporarily do the work.
“I have been told the SEHSCT don’t have the staff available to provide emergency care for rural areas, despite providing emergency care for larger towns in the areas such as Newtownards. It appears no consideration has been given to rural-proof provision to ensure rural dwellers receive an equal level of care as their peers living in towns.
“Constituents have informed me in a number of case the SEHSCT’s solution was to offer to move the older person into residential care, which is not a practical solution – it would involve the older person being moved to a home many miles from their family, alongside fears their home may be sold to pay for care.
“The SEHSCT does not appear to consider the impact on the individual, being more concerned with blaming the contractor, the cost or moving the person into residential care miles from where they live. The Ards Peninsula is only one area, but I am concerned this is being repeated in other rural areas. Our older people are being failed by a system which should be protecting and caring for them.”
“Regrettably, the Trust has been experiencing situations where providers are advising that they can no longer provide domiciliary care packages. In these circumstances, the Trust is doing all it can to source alternative providers in as timely a way as possible.
“There are particular challenges in providing domiciliary care in rural areas given the increased travelling times to and between clients and it is for this reason that the Trust offers an enhanced rural rate for these packages.
“As of this week there remain ten care packages which were handed back to the Trust for which we are continuing to try to source care. We have been working with clients and their families to put interim arrangements in place pending the replacement package being sourced.
“The Trust has also been contacted by another provider in the Peninsula area advising that they can no longer provide a domiciliary service in the Ards Peninsula area and they will be handing back 27 care packages on 23 July 2017. The Trust has worked hard with other providers in the area to secure care for the majority of these people and temporary alternative arrangements have been agreed with the remaining people and their families.
“Only in exceptional circumstances and where no other safe alternative is available would the Trust, in consultation with the client and their family, suggest residential care until an alternative domiciliary care package is available. The Trust would want to re-assure the public that in these rare circumstances, there isno cost to the client and they would not have to sell their home to pay for care –a fear referenced in Ms Armstrong’s statement.
“The Trust is striving to recruit and increase capacity in its Domiciliary Care Service. Recruitment Open Days are being arranged in a range of venues across the Trust and the arrangements for these will be advertised in local newspapers. If anyone is interested in joining the Domiciliary Care Team, please contact the Domiciliary Services Manager on (028) 9250 1227 for further information.
“We would wish to thank clients and their families for working with us in these challenging circumstances.”