Northern Ireland

Health chief says 'no-one will be frog-marched' from NI care homes

Elderly person and carer
Image caption A fresh consultation on the future of residential care in Northern Ireland will start in October

The chief executive of the NI Health and Social Care Board has said no-one will be frog-marched out of any residential care home in Northern Ireland.

John Compton was responding to the latest move by the board to transform how older people are cared for.

Mr Compton said a fresh consultation on the future of residential care will be "thorough but fair".

It is due to start in October.

The board has acknowledged there were failings in how the issue was handled earlier this year, but said future changes would be approached sensitively.

Care homes in the northern, southern and western trust areas were earmarked for closure in April.

There is currently a debate over the future of the 331 men and women who currently live in residential care homes.

Opinion is divided over why there are so few.

Although the board argues that it is due to a lack of demand for places, others argue it is a result of the non-admissions policy that has been operating in some of the Northern Ireland health trusts for several years.

According to the board, there are 263,720 older people living in Northern Ireland. Older people, according to the health board, are those aged over 65 years.

In May, the Health Minister Edwin Poots ordered trusts to suspend consultation plans.

The move followed a public outcry, with families and residents angry about how the matter was being handled.

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Poots said it would be a time for people to come first, not buildings.

"I welcome the fact that that is how things are going to be done in the future," he said.

"It doesn't mean that residential care homes won't close in some locations across Northern Ireland.

"What it does mean is that each person will be treated as an individual, that their views will be listened to, they'll be respected and that will be core to this, that this will be about the individual not about the facility."

The health union, Unison, said while residential homes failed to accept any long-term residents, within five years there would not be enough people to justify keeping them open.

In October, the health board is to consult about what criteria should be used to assess a home's future.

The director of Social Care and Children, Fionnuala McAndrew, has said the process would be more transparent.

Any major changes, including proposed closures, will require a second consultation.

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