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Author: Independent Health & Care Providers
Published on 29 March 2011 11:00 AM

How we provide community care will be the greatest logistical and financial challenge of the next Assembly according to the Independent Health and Care Providers.

The Independent Health and Care sector, which employs over 12,000 people across Northern Ireland has challenged government, political parties and wider society to proactively debate and come to terms with the scale of the issue of caring for older and vulnerable people in Northern Ireland. Speaking before the launch of the document at Stormont, Hugh Mills of the IHCP emphasised it is becoming increasingly clear that both the spending levels and the models of service delivery of the recent past now need to be re-examined:

“Put simply, there isn’t the money to go around anymore, and we need to find new ways of providing services for the care of older and vulnerable people whilst retaining and augmenting the quality of service provided. Reform requires a fundamental look at how we currently provide care for older people, and this issue is so complex and important that it may well be the greatest logistical challenge facing the next Assembly and those which follow it.

He continued,

“The IHCP believes that it can help offer innovative ways of caring for those who need it at a cost which society can afford. The longer we delay looking objectively at and imaginatively dealing with this issue the more difficult it will be to develop a coherent, affordable strategy for doing so. We are certain that through working closely with the Department of Health and the Boards and Trusts that we can help play our part in bringing costs down whilst retaining the highest level of care for patients and clients. Comparisons of costs between the services provided by the statutory and independent sector suggest that as much as £50 million per year could be saved in domiciliary and residential care.”

Care of older people will become one of the most pressing issues of our time:

  • By 2026 one in five people will be aged 65 or over.
  • Between 2008 and 2020 the number of people in Northern Ireland aged over 75 years will have increased by 40%. 
  • 1 in 14 people aged over 65 years have a form of dementia, rising to 1 in 6 people over 80 years and 1 in 3 over 85 years.
  • Almost 10,000 people over 65 years are cared for in residential or nursing homes and of the 21,000 people who receive care at home, 70% are over 75 years old. 

IHCP members provide care for some 11,000 people in residential and nursing homes, sheltered housing and in the community. Members also provide support and information to carers and families.

The manifesto document calls for a move towards 75% provision of domiciliary care from within the independent sector, in line with that in other parts of the UK.

Hugh Mills concluded,

“The independent health and social care sector is keen to share our experience. To that end we call for enhanced structured and sustained engagement with the Health and Social Care Board as the central commissioner of services where the key issues between commissioners and providers can be discussed and resolved. We believe that there must be communication and sharing of ideas on best practice between IHCP and the statutory sector through the Social Care Joint Forum in the interests of enhanced resident and client care.”

The IHCP now plans to meet MLAs across Northern Ireland as part of its lobbying process. The organisation calls on the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to develop a national review of service provision to mirror the National Review of funding of Long Term Care currently being carried out in England and Wales.

For more information: Call Age NI Advice: 0808 808 7575