Long-delayed health and social care report set to be published
A long-delayed report into the challenges facing adult health and social care is set to be released by the Department of Health, amid serious concern over increasing pressure on the system.
Just weeks before the collapse of the powersharing government at Stormont, two health experts - Des Kelly and John Kennedy - were appointed to form an advisory panel to investigate potential solutions to the challenges facing the adult care and support system.
With no health minister in place due to the political crisis, the report, which contains vital recommendations to help ensure the system is fit for purpose, has been left unpublished.
However, the Department of Health has advised the Press Association that it intends to publish the report without a minister in place.
A spokesman for the department said: "The expert panel and the department had intended to present the report to an incoming minister, with a view to informing a vitally needed public debate on the future of adult social care.
"In light of the current circumstances, the department has asked the panel to formally submit the finalised version of the report, with a view to early publication."
The department warned that the issues the panel considered "have not receded".
"Indeed, pressure is building and a public debate on the future remains essential.
"Publication of the report will facilitate that engagement," the spokesman added.
He said the reform of adult social care "is an essential part of the transformation of the health and social care system".
"That system is facing serious and growing pressures due to a number of important factors, not least demographic change.
"These pressures include a significant increase in demand for domiciliary care.
"The department is committed to taking HSC (health and social care) transformation forward and this report has a very important part to play in this process," the department added.
The report follows the publication last year of the Bengoa report into the future of health and social care across Northern Ireland.
The Bengoa report highlighted the rising pressures within the health system.
The report into adult health and social care is expected to be a comprehensive look at a social care system that many have warned is broken.
One of the issues expected to be tackled in the report is the rising demand for social care due to the changing demographics, with significantly more elderly people in society due to longer life expectancy.
The report will address the reforms to the system that are needed, including support and recognition for family carers, funding, workforce and pay issues and self-directed support provision.
The report is also expected to look at how the independent sector now has a more dominant role in the social care sector, such as nursing home care, residential care and domiciliary care.
Duane Farrell, of Age NI, recently warned of the importance of addressing these issues.
"The absence of political leadership should not be a barrier to moving forward on the societal conversation we now need for us all as we age. The longer we wait to start that process, the more broken our system becomes," said Mr Farrell.