South Eastern HSC Trust To Pull Daily Meals On Wheels Service

A row has broken out over the proposal for a local health trust which plans to stop daily hot meals on wheels replacing this services with frozen meals.

[caption id="attachment_54316" align="alignleft" width="270"]A daily smile and a hot meal delivered could soon be a thing of the past for many elderly and vulnerable people. A daily smile and a hot meal delivered could soon be a thing of the past for many elderly and vulnerable people.[/caption]

Gone are the days in the post-war UK when altruistic volunteers delivered hot meals on wheels to the needy in an old pram with the food often insulated with straw or even a woollen coat to kept it warm .  As the NHS became institutionalised, it absorbed some of the responsibility for caring for the needy and providing hot meals especially for the elderly, but economic pressures are now taking their toll on this important service.

The South Eastern HSC Trust has recently tendered its community meals service and has taken the decision to switch to a frozen meals service.

This means that instead of a daily delivery of a cooked chilled meal, clients will receive a fortnightly deliver of 14 frozen meals which will be stored in a freezer.

A Trust spokesperson said: “It is extremely important to highlight that clients will continue to receive a nutritious meal and will benefit from a wider choice of options, delivered to their home. It is also important to differentiate between the current meal deliveries, which are carried out by drivers, and assistance with meals and personal care which is provided by health and social care staff and which is not affected by the new meals arrangement.”

Director of Nursing and Older People’s Service Nicki Patterson has reacted strongly to  the SDLP’s Fearghal McKinney’s, Health spokesperson who said the change ‘will put people in hospital in a weakened state.’

[caption id="attachment_54318" align="alignright" width="390"]A hot meal delivered to an elderly person... how will salads and fresh food translate from the freezer? A hot meal delivered to an elderly person… how will salads and fresh food translate from the freezer?[/caption]

“I would like to reassure people that the nutritional value of the meals is as good, if not better, than the current meals. If an individual needs further services, such as help with heating and eating meals, then that service is provided by our staff, and there will be no change.

“This is not about cutting the service. What we are doing is looking at ways of re-providing the service in a way which ensures improved value for money and sustainability for this service into the future, without compromising on the quality and choice of meals available for clients.

“It is unfortunate that this news broke while we are still engaged in the contract award process. Once it is complete, we will be talking to clients individually.

“All our existing clients will be reassessed, and over the next few months consideration will be given to individual needs and all issues taken into account.”

The spokesperson added: “Requirements for the tender were carefully specified by experienced Trust staff and on the basis of feedback from service users.  Meals are in line with strict dietetic guidance and part of the selection process included sampling of potential contractors meals.

“The Trust will be working with the provider over the coming months, to showcase the excellent range of meals and dessert options which will be available. It is anticipated that the new service will be in place from May 2015.”

Local SDLP Health Spokesperson McGrath Says Decision Is Callous

Downpatrick Councillor Colin McGrath and local heal;th spokesperosn said: “The loss of this service is most callous.

“Older people rely on this daily delivery as a means of sustenance but also as a window to the outside world – getting some human contact in a day and an invaluable and essential check up on the state of their health.

“Many older people know that should something happen to them during the night the meals on wheels delivery can provide an essential early warning system and ensure emergency help is directed when needed.

The amount of savings achieved through this initiative when compared to the massive salaries that directors and other at the Trust get underscores a perceived approach of cut everything but the big wages.”

Alliance Councillor Clarke Slams Health Trust Over Meals Decision

Councillor Patrick Clarke has slammed a health trust’s meals on wheels service which is to swap fresh daily meals for frozen meals every fortnight.

He said: “I am absolutely appalled at the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust’s plan from May 2015 to swap fresh food meals on wheels service for frozen meals every fortnight to nearly 1300 pensioners.

“Yet again the South Eastern HSC Trust has not even consulted with users mostly pensioners of the meals on wheels service and has decided to implement delivery of frozen meals every fortnight which I find totally absurd.

“The meals-on-wheels service is an important lifeline to many pensioners who have a freshly cooked meal delivered to their door and quite often this is largely the only daily contact some pensioners have with carers.

“There are many pensioners who are totally housebound because of age and disabilities and who rely on the delivery of a daily freshly cooked meal which is brought in by a carer.

“I have no doubt that many pensioners will be gravely upset and worried at the prospect of losing the delivery of a freshly cooked and prepared meal to their door by a carer and feel that once again the most vulnerable in our society are being targeted.”

“I believe the South Eastern Health Trust has not properly thought this through and instead of looking at the valuable service the trust is providing to the elderly through the meals-on-wheels service the trust has instead taken the easy option to cut the service in order to save money.”

Sinn Féin Say Vulnerable Being Hit Again

Downpatrick Councillor Naomi Bailie said: “It’s regrettable that the SEHSCT still haven’t learned from their appalling communications record of past. We are learning of this decision today, following it having been put out to tender.

“This is despite cries from Trust officials that they did intend consulting on the proposals; but only after they had tendered for it and were presumably ready to roll out. Yet again the most vulnerable in our society are being targeted by pen pushers in the Trust.

“This is a disgraceful decision. We are being told it’s a decision on the basis of cost effectiveness. This is simply spin. This is a cut. A cut to a service so vital, that if tampered with will result only in coating money and lives.”