‘Save Lisgarel home from Compton axe’, campaigner pleads

Lisgarel. INLT 19-404-PR
Lisgarel. INLT 19-404-PR

COUNCILLORS have been urged to act now to stave off any threat to Lisgarel Residential Home under the health and social care review recommended in the Compton Report.

A woman who was involved in the successful public lobby to save the facility from closure in 2006 has written to all 15 members of the local authority to warn that it could be targeted again. She told councillors: “I’d like to bring to your attention the very real concerns within the Larne area that Lisgarel Residential Home will close as a result of the implementation of the Compton Review recommendations. You will be aware that the review recommends closing half of the statutory residential homes in Northern Ireland.”

The Northern Health and Social Care Trust has stated that it does not have any “firm proposals” at this stage and is presently engaging with district councils. However, the lobbyist - who asked to remain anonymous to protect the identity of her aunt, a Lisgarel resident - points out that there is at least an even chance that a strong and cohesive campaign will again be required to keep the 40-bed home safe from closure.

The review process instigated by Health Minister Edwin Poots in June, 2011 will gain considerable momentum in the next few weeks.

Having accepted Compton’s Transforming Your Care (TYC) recommendations, which identified a “growing and ageing population” among the “drivers for change”, Mr Poots asked trusts and local commissioning groups to prepare implementation plans by this June. The local proposals will be submitted to the Health and Social Care Board, who will form a regional plan to be presented to the minister.

Only after the minister has made a final decision on the draft plan will the proposals go out to public consultation.

Locally, the Northern Trust has already had one briefing meeting with Larne Borough Council on TYC and officials are to return to Smiley Buildings for further discussion on Tuesday, May 29.

At the council’s monthly meeting, Cllr Martin Wilson referred to the Lisgarel letter and asked the council to reconvene the health sub-committee which was formed to co-ordinate the 2006 campaign. The body comprises members of the council and non-elected representatives with Health Service expertise.

Below are excerpts from the letter to councillors:

“In 2006, my aunt and I were involved in the local campaign to save Lisgarel from closure, in response to an ill-conceived plan by the then Northern Board. Thankfully, that campaign was successful in keeping Lisgarel open. Subsequently, my aunt suffered a stroke and is now a permanent resident of Lisgarel.

“In many ways she is the type of resident that Lisgarel is ideal for. She has been expertly assessed by health and social care teams and does not require nursing care. However, due to a degree of brain damage sustained by the stroke, she does require 24-hour support and residential care. She is not ill, but cannot safely perform day-to-day tasks such as dressing herself and washing without close support and requires constant monitoring.

“The only thing that has lessened the pain of this devastating situation was the fact the Lisgarel was there, which my aunt now calls her home.

“There are a number of key points about Lisgarel that make it a special and very needed place:

- Local, dedicated staff, caring for local people. Lisgarel has a family atmosphere, and the staff team look after the residents as if they are part of their own family. These staff will lose their jobs should Lisgarel close.

- Located within a complex of services for older people - beside Larne Day Centre and McGarel Bungalows, both providing excellent and much needed services for older people. Inver House, the health centres and pharmacy are also within a very short walk.

- Local confidence: A visitor to Lisgarel told me recently that if her health failed, she would be happy to enter the home. I have heard this said by many, many people in Larne over the years. I have never heard it said about any other residential facility; rather, the thought of going into one of “those places” is fear and dread.

“For many people, remaining in their own home as they age is their wish, and much work needs to be put into providing care for people in this situation. But there will be also be growing numbers of people, like my aunt, who fit the criteria for full residential care.

If excellent places like Lisgarel close on the basis that there is something better (which I believe is not the case), where will they call home then?”

Asked to comment, the Northern Health and Social Care Trust stated: “While mindful of the direction of travel outlined in Transforming Your Care, we have not developed any firm proposals at this stage. TYC does, however, acknowledge a future need to provide more care to support people to live at home rather than in residential care.

“The Trust and the Local Commissioning Group (LCG) are conducting a series of meetings with local councils and the communities they represent. The purpose of these is to get feedback on local issues; these are not consultations.

“Public consultation on any significant changes proposed to service delivery will take place.”