Belfast Telegraph

Edwin Poots defends nursing home care staff after damning quality probe

By Lisa Smyth

Staff working in nursing homes across Northern Ireland have been defended by the Health Minister after a damning report of care in residential facilities for the elderly.

Edwin Poots offered reassurances that the majority of care delivered in residential homes is good quality after a Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission investigation identified a series of shocking failures.

The report found some residents were not taken to the toilet, delays in dental or speech and language therapist appointments meant that residents were given pureed food for the convenience of staff, and residents who could go to the toilet were given incontinence pads anyway, due to staffing pressures.

It also identified concerns over the use of sedation and restraint in some care homes, a lack of activities and stimulation, and 17-hour delays between dinner and breakfast being served.

While the findings have been met with outrage, Mr Poots (below) said: “This report into the human rights of older people living in nursing homes focuses on simple aspects of everyday living.

“These are things which able-bodied younger people take for granted — like eating and drinking, dealing with continence needs, or communicating with other people.

“When we lose our ability to carry out these simple functions and rely on others, we lose our independence.

“This does not mean we should lose our dignity. Those entrusted with caring for older people must never stray from keeping dignity, respect and fairness at the heart of everything they do.”

He continued: “The report does highlight the work of the many devoted staff who do a first-rate job.

“I want to take this opportunity to thank the hundreds of people in care homes across Northern Ireland who have the passion, compassion and patience to spend their time ensuring older people receive the care they need and deserve.

“They understand that the essence of caring for older people is about getting to know and value people as individuals, finding out how they want to be cared for, and providing care which ensures that respect, dignity and fairness are maintained.

“They know that care should be provided in a way which does not intimidate or embarrass. Dignity and respect should be afforded to all those people who are in our care — in whatever setting that care is provided.”

However, Mr Poots said he regards it as a serious concern when the needs of elderly people living in care homes are not met.

“It can be tantamount to abuse and an assault on individual human rights,” he said.

“Abuse has a devastating impact on a person’s independence, self-confidence and ability to mix socially, as well as on their fundamental health and well-being. There can be no hiding place or secrets when it comes to exposing the abuse of vulnerable adults,” he added.

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