Ulster Unionist representative Robbie Butler has said the next Executive should use much of the £120m additional funding revealed in the Chancellor’s Budget to ease the ‘impossible pressures’ currently facing the local adult social care system.
Robbie Butler said:
“Northern Ireland’s health service is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, with more people waiting longer for diagnosis or treatment than at any other time in its almost 70-year history.
“Every aspect of local care is under immense pressure, including the support for our elderly. A legacy of underinvestment in primary and social care, combined with a rapidly ageing population, has contributed to a system that is really struggling to cope and which is already failing to meet demand. This is most evident with a critical shortage of care packages for older people who are ready to leave hospital but can’t because they have no suitable place to go.
“The increase in the older population will mean much more pressure being placed on the adult social care system. The rate of disability for instance among those aged over 85 is 67% compared with only 5% among young adults. This inevitably will see its already limited resources stretched well beyond breaking point. Therefore, I believe additional resources must be made available to adequately provide for people in need of care and support.
“Philip Hammond, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, has clearly recognised the importance of investing and maintaining an adequate social care system, and therefore the investment of £2bn announced in the Budget was welcome. That funding was specifically for England, however as a result of the Budget Northern Ireland is set to receive an additional £120m over the next three years through the Barnet formula.
“It is my strong belief that much of this additional funding should be invested in the local social care system. The Ulster Unionist Party last year revealed that in the previous 12 months alone there were 68,000 instances of delayed discharges – better known as bed blocking, many because no social care package was available. Even a modest £10m investment in local social care would provide over 1,200 domiciliary care packages of 2 hours per day.
“The local NHS is under huge pressure, and the chaos in our hospitals is being compounded by the failure to adequately meet the needs of our older people. Investing in social care is no longer an option, it is an absolute necessity.”