Northern Ireland

Western Health Trust care home places to be prioritised

The Western Health and Social Care Trust has said patients may face a longer wait for a place in a nursing or residential care home due to financial pressures and an increase in demand.

It said it was now allocating places on a weekly basis, with priority given to those in "greatest need".

Local GP Dr Nicola Duffy said the new process raised "numerous concerns".

She said she feared more patients would have to be admitted to hospital if they could not get a care home place.

"We see the number of patients who have social problems that cannot be managed.

"I just don't know exactly where they are going to go," she said.

'X Factor-like'

The GP said that social workers, who were already dealing with residential emergencies on a daily basis, were having to argue cases on behalf of their clients in order to secure care home placements.

"They have to go in X Factor-like style and present their information and decide then if that need is higher than someone else's.

"No-one is asking for social care input unless they actually need it.

"To decide a hierarchy of need to me is morally difficult to comprehend," she said.

Dr Duffy also questioned why the health minister had introducted free prescriptions for people on "reasonable incomes" when health care staff were being told there was not enough money to run "simple basic services."

In a statement the Western Health Trust said it was working in an "extremely challenging financial climate for health and social care provision".

"Due to the increasing level of demand, linked to an ageing population, the trust has now put in place a process through which all requests for placement are reviewed, prioritised and allocated on a weekly basis, with the resources available.

"Regrettably this means that some people will have to wait longer than they might have anticipated for such support.

"All cases are continually kept under review taking into consideration any change in circumstances for those waiting," the statement said.