Care service axing slammed by UUP
Axing a support service for people returning from hospital could have dire consequences, it has been claimed.
Eleven jobs have also been put at risk by the decision to cut the Home from Hospital rehabilitation care at the end of this month.
Ulster Unionist Party health spokeswoman Jo-Anne Dobson branded the cost-saving measure "short-sighted" and said she would be raising the matter with the Health Minister.
The Upper Bann MLA said: "It is extremely disappointing, not least for the people affected, that this well-respected service is being withdrawn and I have written to the Health Minister to express concern about this decision.
"This is a very short-sighted decision and one which, while the Trust dithers, leaves far too many people with a valuable service withdrawn from them."
The Home from H ospital service has been run by Bryson Charitable Group on behalf of the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust for around 20 years.
Trained carers provide short-term assistance to people recovering from major surgeries who would otherwise be left at home alone.
They help with daily tasks such as bathing, getting in and out of bed, dressing and shopping as well as providing emotional reassurance to help alleviate feelings of anxiety and loneliness that can arise after a stay in hospital.
But in a letter to Marie Heaney, a senior manager at the Belfast Trust dated December 31, the charity warned that the service was no longer sustainable.
"The loss to Bryson at the 7th month end is in excess of £20k," a Bryson representative stated.
"Bryson continues to believe there remains a great need for this service as part of a menu of short-term interventions and would be delighted to continue, however we cannot sustain this subsidy."
A request for an urgent meeting to discuss the crisis was not followed up, according to the charity.
SDLP spokesman for health Fearghal McKinney said: "This is just another example of the pound taking precedence over the patient.
"This reality of (the Department of Health) not having a strategic view is that 11 jobs are now at risk and vulnerable people will be left to cope alone.
"Where is the social care in all of that?"
The Belfast Trust said it would utilise any savings that were made.
A statement said: "Bryson Charitable Group gave the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust three months' notice of its intention to cease the Home from Hospital service on December 31, 2014.
"The funding released will be utilised through increasing service capacity in reablement and domiciliary care services.
"The Trust are monitoring impact, however to date demand is being absorbed by the other 23 other providers and its own statutory reablement and home care service.
"The Trust will continue to monitor this and make capacity adjustments if required."
Meanwhile, staff from the Home from Hospital unit have been told they will be redeployed.
But s ome employees fear that could mean a change of working hours and conditions which may force them out of a job.
One woman, who has been with Bryson for more than 10 years, but declined to be named, said: "We deal with people who have just come out of hospital after having operations like hip replacements or knee operations if they have no family or anyone to look after them.
"We would help them with daily living tasks until they get back on their feet.
"It is important and rewarding, and it would be a real shame to lose it - not just for us but for the public as well."
In a statement, Bryson Charitable Group said: " The Belfast Health and Social Care Trust have taken the decision to end the Home from Hospital Service that we in Bryson have delivered for over 20 years. The service will end by the 31st March 2015.
"There are 11 staff affected by this decision and we are in consultation with the staff to ensure that they can easily transfer to other positions within our care service.
"We are committed to protecting jobs and the staff members have all been offered similar positions with the same terms and conditions.
"The consultation process is still ongoing."