HEALTH Minister Edwin Poots on Friday evening has withdrawn all powers from Health Trusts to shut care homes in Northern Ireland.
The huge U-turn followed a massive public outcry from residents, care home workers and politicians over plans by some boards to shut all their residential homes.
He has withdrawn all power from the trusts in implementing the policy and said that the process would be centralised at a regional level.
The care home closure story was first revealed by UTV on Wednesday, April 24. It was the first time Mr Poots said he became aware of the plan.
Mr Poots said on Friday: “It is unacceptable that any older person feels distressed because of proposals for change.”
The Minister added that the Health and Social Care Board “to initiate a new process which will place, at its core, the principle of sensitivity to the needs and wishes of older people.”
Speaking after a meeting at the Southern trust headquarters in Craigavon, County Armagh, Mr Poots said: “Older people and their families have been left upset and alarmed.
“That should never be the by-product of a process which is all about improving the lives of older people and giving them more control. This is why we will have a fresh start.
“This is about listening to our older people and their families and our own staff. I have said I want genuine communication with every person affected and every individual to be treated with sensitivity and dignity.
“I expect the HSCB to take account of what the Commissioner for Older People has said, and to engage with the Patient Client Council, where appropriate.”
The Minister said proposals must be in line with policy and the pace of any proposed closures must be understood by individuals, staff and the wider public.
He went on to say: “The HSCB must work with trusts and coordinate a regional approach on residential care homes, engaging with the Commissioner for Older People.”
Mr Poots said he expected the HSCB to provide assurance that best practice is followed. This will include:
- Communication and engagement with individuals, families and staff;
- That the needs of individuals are being addressed in any proposed change and that their wishes are being listened to;
- That proposed changes are in line with policy; and
- That the pace of change is clear, appropriate and in line with policy.
Oversight from the Department’s Chief Social Services Officer, Sean Holland, will provide further assurance for the Minister.
The Minister concluded: “I want to send out a clear message to older people that there will be genuine consultation and their views will be heard. No one’s care will be put in jeopardy.
“I expect a process which not only identifies the needs of each individual affected by proposed changes, but also understands the wishes of every single individual and their families. I expect these wishes to be respected, and this extends to all staff.
“I want to send out a clear message to older people that there will be genuine consultation and their views will be heard. No one’s care will be put in jeopardy.”
On Thursday, the Western trust said that its intention was to close four NHS residential care homes and defended its actions, saying it had tried to be honest with people during its discussions.
The Southern and the Northern trusts had already announced the potential closure of all their NHS residential care homes.
First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson said on Thursday that the trusts should “think again” about closing all their care homes.