£23 million confirmed for care home and home care sector towards better pay and recruitment in Northern Ireland

Health Minister Robin Swann has announced a support package of up to £23million for domiciliary care and the wider social care sector so employers can offer improved rates of pay and attract more staff into the domiciliary care and care home workforces.

Thursday, 25th November 2021, 9:21 am

An escalating workforce shortfall in domiciliary care in Northern Ireland has led to providers being unable to deliver contracted home care packages. This has contributed to the problem of delayed discharges in our hospitals, Mr Swann said, while staffing pressures also continue to be experienced in care homes.

The Minister said: “This £23m package has been developed through detailed engagement with the sector and I am grateful for this collaborative approach.

“I am confident the funding will facilitate increased capacity across the social care sector for the remainder of 2021/22.

Health Minister Robin Swann

“A longer-term solution is self-evidently needed, involving multi-year budgets and a durable financial settlement for all health and social care services.”

The Minister continued: “I will very shortly be launching a public consultation on the future of adult social care. As I have repeatedly stated, social care needs a long-term programme of both investment and reform.

“While there are many competing demands on Northern Ireland’s public finances, this has to be a priority in the coming years. We have to invest in staffing – in making a social care a more rewarding job in terms of both remuneration and career opportunities.”

Health and Social Care organisations across Northern Ireland today welcomed the Health Minster’s announcement.

As winter approaches, they said, the health and care service is dealing with extreme bed pressures due to increased demands for urgent and emergency care and sustained high levels of Covid-19 infection in our communities. All our hospitals are working beyond capacity at present with many very ill patients waiting for hospital beds, they added.

In Northern Ireland, as of Monday 22 November 2021, 205 people were in Emergency Departments waiting for a hospital bed to become available. Meanwhile 222 people were in hospital beds medically fit for discharge but delayed by the need for suitable care packages to facilitate their discharge. There were 589 available beds in care homes.

The co-operation of patients, their families and carers, the Health and Social Care Board stated, is essential to support discharge and help us free up beds during this extremely busy time.

Brendan Whittle, Director of Social Care and Children with the Health and Social Care Board said: “We appeal for the public’s support in these challenging times. We are asking you to help by working with our staff and standing by them so they can continue to help patients and their families get the care and treatment they need’.

“Everyone is aware that as Winter pressures escalate, Health and Social Care services across the region come under huge strain. The pandemic is far from over and we are asking patients and their families to support us by accepting ‘step-down’ bed options from hospital to make capacity for those very ill patients who require hospital care. To support these arrangements, care home fees have been waived for patients who step down from hospital to care homes beds until their package becomes available.

“We are already indebted to our health and social care staff who continue to work hard to ensure that patients receive the treatment and care that they need this Winter despite an already challenging year. To assist them, we are asking that patients do not remain in hospital any longer than necessary. We also need families wherever possible, to provide transport to transfer loved ones from hospital in a timely manner when required.”

To help free up beds required for very sick patients, Health and Social Care (HSC) is issuing the following request for support from patients and their families:

*If patients are deemed medically fit by the consultant/senior doctor to go home, they and their families should ensure that there are arrangements in place to be picked up promptly on the day of discharge. Medical and nursing teams can help you make these arrangements.

*If patients are deemed medically fit by the consultant/senior doctor to go home and are waiting on a care home placement, HSC Trust staff will allocate the first place that is suitable for you. This may not necessarily be your first choice, but it is important to note that HSC Trusts will work closely with you to transfer your family member to your home of first choice at the earliest possible date.

*Patients who step down to care homes will receive their domiciliary care package as soon as it becomes available. Provision of your care package will remain a priority and you will not be disadvantaged or placed at the bottom of a queue.

*If you are deemed medically fit by the consultant/senior doctor to go home, and there is a delay in sourcing new or additional home care (domiciliary care), you may be discharged and these elements of your care package will be organised when you get home. Additional family support may be required until the home care package is finalised.