Care Home Closures

Part of Question for Urgent Oral Answer — Health, Social Services and Public Safety – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:30 pm on 30th November 2015.

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Photo of Simon Hamilton Simon Hamilton DUP 3:30 pm, 30th November 2015

Let us not conflate the issues. The homes looked at more recently by various trusts were, of course, residential care homes. These homes are more on the nursing care side, where a very different level of care is provided to meet the needs of residents. Last week, I took a decision to halt and review consultations on the potential closure of some statutory residential care homes. It was only right to do so in a period of obvious volatility in the market, when the biggest provider in the independent sector in Northern Ireland is in the difficulties that it is. I think that it was only right that I paused, reflected on and carefully considered the whole range of circumstances.

The Member's point about the care provided in the public sector is right, in that the public sector provides a very high standard of care, whether nursing or residential. However, that does not mean that the standard of care provided in the private sector is any less high quality. Unfortunately, debates such as this can sometimes be seen as knocking the private or independent sector. The Member is shaking his head, and I appreciate that he does not perhaps mean or seek to imply that, but we should acknowledge that our independent sector plays a vital role in providing care, whether residential or nursing, for many older people across Northern Ireland. It will continue to do so into the future. Many great people work in that sector to ensure that our older people get the quality and standard of care that they require.