Ulster Unionist Health Spokesperson Jo-Anne Dobson MLA has described care packages for older people which see carers spending just fifteen minutes in their homes as ‘inhumane and uncaring.’
Commenting following the publication of a report into Domiciliary Care in Northern Ireland by the Commissioner for Older People, Claire Keatinge, the Upper Bann MLA said:
“The findings of this report hit the nail on the head when it comes to home care packages for people who have worked all of their lives and are entitled to dignity and independence in their older age.
“Carers do a fantastic job but cut backs often lead older people to depend on the unpaid care of family or friends and far too many are left with no alternative but to go into residential care. This is at a time when many older people want to stay in their own homes for longer.
“Trusts also need to rethink their tendering processes as often local smaller companies are shut out of the process but end up providing the care anyway as they are subcontracted by the eventual winners – the cloth is being cut too many ways and older people are left to suffer.
“The Health Minister needs to look at his bloated bodies including the Health and Social Care Board, Business Services Organisation and Public Health Agency which have increased staffing levels by over 40% since 2011.
“With a projected 87% increase in Northern Ireland’s older population in the next 50 years the Health Minister needs to protect his front-line workers, including carers, and get to grips with this issue now before it’s too late.
“The current position of short term savings across the five Health Trusts which lead to longer term costs is totally unsustainable and I will be writing to the Health Minister about the findings of this important report by the Commissioner.
“I pay tribute to the work which Claire Keatinge has done in her term as our Commissioner for Older People. She has been a fantastic ambassador and I wish her well as she ends her term in office. I will also be writing to both the First and deputy First Ministers as it sets a worrying precedent that the process of recruiting a new Commissioner for Older People has not even begun.
“This sends out a clear and worrying message to older people across Northern Ireland that the Executive feel they have more important things to do than look after the interests of older people – they need to get on top of this issue as a matter of urgency.”