Beggs claims: Poots ‘ignored’ advice on managing residential home closures

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NORTHERN Ireland’s Commissioner for Older Persons warned Health Minister Edwin Poots more than a year ago of the potential pitfalls of closing residential care homes, a local MLA has revealed.

Ulster Unionist Assemblyman Roy Beggs Jnr has published a briefing note that had been prepared for the DUP minister on the proposed closure of homes. In it, commissioner Claire Keatinge provided guidance on good practice which Mr Beggs says was ignored when trusts announced plans to close almost all Health Service care homes in the Province.

Mr Beggs, the UUP health spokesman, said this week: “Vulnerable people living at the Greenisland House, Joymount, Lisgarel and Clonmore residential homes will have been significantly distressed by the DUP Health Minister, Edwin Poots’s failure to follow the guidance given to him by the Older Persons’ Commissioner.”

The East Antrim MLA revealed that on April 18, 2012, Claire Keatinge handed a briefing note to the minister at a meeting in Castle Buildings. The agenda item was listed as “Planned closure of statutory residential homes across Northern Ireland as identified in Transforming Your Care - A Review of Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland (Compton Review), December 2011”.

Mr Beggs explained that the guidance covered a wide range of issues relating to good practice, including a caution that, “minimising any adverse impact on the current residents has to be at the heart of the process of statutory residential care home closures”.

The commissioner urged that the planned manner of statutory residential home closures recommended by Compton should be led and developed on a regional basis through the DHSSPS; that the process of care management planning should be clearly set out; and that “independent advocacy support” should be available to all residents affected.

She also recommended that a “clear communications plan through the DHSSPS should be in place”.

It was possible, said the commissioner, to manage relocation of elderly care home residents “in ways that are least damaging for the residents involved,” with a warning that the impact of closures on health and psychological well being was “likely to be influenced by the way in which a home is closed and the relocation managed”.

A recent announcement by trusts that they intended to close 18 NHS care homes caused a great deal of distress to residents. Mr Poots then instructed all five trusts to drop the plans and transferred responsibility to the Health and Social Care Board.

Mr Beggs said: “Bearing in mind that the health minister was warned of the potential pitfalls more than a year ago, it is even more incredible that he permitted the distressing disaster which emerged in the fast fortnight to occur. The Commissioner for Older People gave him 12 months’ warning of what could go wrong,” he said.

Minister Poots ignored her advice and this merely compounds his shame as to how the most vulnerable were treated.”