HEALTH Minister Edwin Poots will be asked to approve the closure of Larne’s Lisgarel residential home by 2015, an East Antrim Assembly member has claimed.
Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs Jnr said after a Northern Health and Social Care Trust briefing last week that the trust will recommend closing all its residential homes in the next three years.
Last week, the Larne Times published an article in which a local campaigner for the 40-bed Lisgarel facility urged local politicians to launch the fight now for its retention within the NHS.
Mr Beggs said he is “shocked” at “emerging proposals that, if implemented, will see all NHS trust residential homes in Northern Ireland being closed down by 2015”.
He was speaking after a meeting in Ballymena on Friday with Northern Trust chief executive, Sean Donaghy.
“I was aware that the Compton Report – Transforming Your Care – which was commissioned and welcomed by (DUP) Health Minister Edwin Poots last year reiterated the overall long-term policy goal of the Department of Health to transfer resources in elder care from institution settings to care in the community and home. The review also indicated an increasing use of the private sector and spoke of a reduction of residential home places.
“However, the trust appears to have interpreted Compton as meaning the closure of all their residential homes within three years. We have been advised by the trust that their proposals will be finalised before the end of June and submitted to the Regional Health Board and the minister for final decision.”
Mr Beggs added: “I have to say I am shocked by the proposed speed of implementing this policy. It was only a few years ago that the Northern Trust brought forward similar plans to close or replace five of their residential homes, three of which (Lisgarel, Greenisland House and Clonmore in Newtownabbey) particularly affected East Antrim. The then minister Michael McGimpsey (UUP) did not accept the trust’s recommendations, which were then radically altered. Lisgarel and Clonmore were to remain and Greenisland House was to be replaced by new sheltered housing.”
“As before,” he added, “little regard appears to being paid for the well-being of the existing patients in NHS Trust residential homes.”
Mr Beggs said most people would favour care at home, but only if it is “suitably funded”.
DUP duo Sammy Wilson, MP, and David Hilditch, MLA, said they were also briefed on Friday.
Later, Mr Wilson stated: “Our aim is to ensure that the best range of health care options is available for all the people of East Antrim in the future. This will include a mix of better care in homes and more effective transition from hospitals back into the community, as well as support for those who can stay within the community and facilities for those who cannot remain at home, whether through supportive living – which there are some very good examples of in East Antrim – or residential care provided to the highest standard.
“The one thing, however, that we will not engage in is making false promises to the public on things which we know cannot be delivered or are not in the best interests of the health infrastructure of Northern Ireland.”
On the day before the MLAs’ briefing, the Larne Times reported the Northern Trust’s position that: “We have not developed any firm proposals at this stage.”
A spokesman added: “Transforming Your Care does, however, acknowledge a future need to provide more care to support people to live at home rather than in residential care.”
The trust gave an assurance there would be “public consultation on any significant changes proposed to service delivery”. However, the Lisgarel campaigner who first sounded the alarm urged politicians that by then it may be too late.