Pensioners 'being ignored' in health service shake-up
Northern Ireland's pensioners are losing confidence in plans to reform the health service in the wake of the disastrous handling of the closure of State-run residential care homes.
Michael Monaghan, chair of the Northern Ireland Pensioners Parliament, said older people were concerned they were not being listened to and about the effects of such changes on them.
"It is clear that older people are worried about the impact that these changes will have for them as they grow older and remain unconvinced that the resources are in place to achieve what is planned.
"The recent announcements regarding the closure of care homes and the subsequent reaction has emphasised the need for proper consultation with older people regarding any changes to the health and social care service," he said. Up to 200 elderly people gathered in a hotel in Belfast for the seventh annual Pensioners Parliament.
A motion expressing serious concern about the proposed closure of statutory residential homes and calling for an urgent review to ensure a similar situation does not arise was put forward during the meeting.
Mr Monaghan said: "It is essential that older people's voices must be at the heart of any changes," he added.
Pamela McCreedy, director of the Transforming Your Care reform policy, told delegates that an ageing population and increasing demands on Northern Ireland's beleaguered healthcare system meant doing nothing was not an option.
"For me there are difficult choices ahead, for the population there are difficult choices ahead and for the minister there are difficult choices ahead. But, if we do nothing and nothing changes there are also difficult choices ahead," she said.
The two-day Pensioners Parliament organised by the Age Sector Platform also raised issues around rising energy prices and crime.
Earlier this month Health Minister Edwin Poots was forced into an embarrassing U-turn by huge public backlash against plans to close NHS residential care homes. Health trusts had been urged to close half of their homes, but some said they would shut all care homes. Many older people said they did not feel they had been properly consulted.