A day of shame as health service chiefs gear up to close NHS residential homes

Senior officials at the Health and Social Care Board held a press briefing this morning on what Northern Ireland regional secretary Patricia McKeown called “a so-called ‘consultation’ on the future of our care homes.”
“This is merely about which homes close first,” Ms McKeown said. “They call it consultation, but it is deception of the very worst kind.”

In May health minister Edwin Poots withdrew all powers from health trusts to shut residential care homes, following a massive public outcry from residents, care home workers and politicians over plans by some boards to shut all their homes. He said that the process would be centralised at a regional level.

“Since the U-turn by Minister Poots, health chiefs have been working out how to get the closures by avoiding a further public outcry,” said Ms McKeown.  

“The gobbledygook issued to residents and families today cannot disguise the fact that the board is intent on closure. We challenge Mr Poots on what he will do now.”

Earlier this week UNISON hosted social events in Belfast and Derry attended by residents from NHS care homes across Northern Ireland, with ages ranging from their seventies to 103.

They sang and they danced with their sticks, walking frames and wheel chairs. They heard political support from the Lord Mayor of Belfast, the Mayor of Derry, and from Northern Ireland Assembly members Roy Beggs and  Mark H Durkan. And they heard UNISON pledge its total support.
“Determined residents, relatives and staff will ensure that the health chiefs do not get their way,” said Ms McKeown. “They will speak for themselves and give a resounding ‘no’ to the closure of their homes.”

And she added: “No matter how tough things get in the health service, we must spend the money to keep health service homes open for residents, for respite care and for step-down care.  These homes have the highest standards of care and dedicated, trained staff.
“Instead of wasting money on a pretend consultation which is deepening the anxiety of residents and damaging their health, the board might do what UNISON did this week and spend it on giving them a good time in their twilight years.”

UNISON Northern Ireland