Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Northern Ireland's care homes fight goes on

Thackeray Residential Home resident Letty Doherty (99) with her daughter Josie McCann
Thackeray Residential Home resident Letty Doherty (99) with her daughter Josie McCann

Elderly people, their families and care staff have vowed to keep fighting any potential closures of residential care homes under radical health reforms.

Health Minister Edwin Poots was forced into an embarrassing U-turn over the highly controversial changes to residential care services in Northern Ireland following an angry public backlash.

However, the under-fire DUP minister admitted that he was "not moving away" from the Transforming Your Care policy or the plan to axe 50% of care homes.

As part of the consultation process, health trusts were instructed to outline their plans to implement closures in their respective areas.

But with trusts announcing plans to close up to 100% of their facilities, the minister was forced to step in and announce a reprieve – for now.

Despite the climbdown, staff, patients and their families have insisted they will continue their battle to retain the services currently in use and ensure those affected have a choice in their care.

On Saturday over 200 people took part in a parade through Limavady in support of Thackeray Place.

Twenty-nine residents call the facility home, the eldest of which is 101-years-old.

A senior care assistant at Thackeray said protests would continue weekly until assurances were given regarding its future.

"It meant a lot to have the people of Limavady behind us," said Pamela Campbell. "We won't be going away until we know Thackeray Place isn't going away.

Josie McCann protested along with her 99-year-old mother, Letty Doherty. Ms McCann vowed to continue the fight to protect the home from any cuts.

"As it is, the home is oversubscribed and now they are proposing to close up to 50% of the beds," she said.

A fierce war of words erupted among the DUP and UUP over the handling of Transforming Your Care, which was rubber-stamped by Mr Poots.

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt has branded the minister's U-turn as an "political embarrassment" and called for Mr Poots to resign.

He described the minister as "a politician who is now in the public mind associated with throwing 92 and 99-year-old women out in the street, who are appearing on TV in tears", adding: "It's hard to imagine worse for a politician."

But DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson yesterday accused Mr Nesbitt of "hypocrisy", adding the UUP leader "should get his own house in order before lecturing others".

Background

Health Minister Edwin Poots' review of health and social care – Transforming Your Care – has called for trusts to deliver more care in the community and recommended the closure of half of statutory residential homes. But Mr Poots was forced to come out fighting after three health trusts announced plans to shut all their residential homes.

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