Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Calls for fundamental review of domiciliary care in the north

A BBC snapshot of the social care situation in the north has heightened concerns about the current state of domiciliary care here, with serious delays revealed in securing home care packages for hospital patients across all five health and social care trusts. 

The shocking figures showed that in the Southern Health and Social Care Trust one patient waited 11 months for a care package to be put in place while the second longest delay was experienced in the Belfast Trust at 104 days.

Commenting on the pressures highlighted in the BBC report, a spokesperson for the Southern Trust clarified to The Examiner that the 11 month wait refers to one specific case where a client with a care package already in place changed residence and it proved difficult to secure the same package in their new location. “In the interim this client is receiving care support from their family,” said the spokesperson, who added that demands on community services have increased in recent years, with the Southern Trust processing “hundreds of requests for domiciliary care packages each month.”

“At any one time we will have a very small number of clients waiting on a care package. In the majority of cases, packages will be organised within a few days. It is only in very exceptional circumstances that a client may have a longer wait. In such cases, we work closely with the family and other services to ensure that the person receives the care they need until we can secure the right package for them,”  concluded the Southern Trust statement.

Reiterating just how overstretched the care system is, one care worker told the BBC she typically completed 37 calls in a 17 hour shift.   With care workers falling into the lowest quartile for earnings, there have been calls for a complete overhaul of the system to aid both clients and care workers.

Commenting on the latest concerns raised by care workers, SDLP Assembly Member for Newry and Armagh, Justin McNulty said the system was now at “breaking point” , with delays in implementing care packages, a shortage of staff entering the profession and adequate resourcing from the Department of Health both in house and for the private sector.

He renewed his call for the end of 15 minute home care calls and, outlining current figures, Mr McNulty said, “Across the North 13 million hours of care are being provided to residents in their home each year, and yet, a staggering 43% of those calls are for only 15 minutes. This is astonishing and is no way to offer care with dignity and compassion.”

The SDLP MLA called for a fundamental review of care in the community, citing pledges made by the Department of Health back in 2015 that it would phase out fifteen minute calls.

‘Two years later 43% percent of calls here are for 15 minutes whilst in England and Wales this number is falling. In the Republic of Ireland there are no 15 minute calls, with 30% for 30 minutes and 70% are one-hour long visits. If we are to give our citizens who need care in the community, many of whom are elderly and often gravely ill, care with dignity and compassion then we need to make changes and make them fast.’