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Dodds: Domiciliary sector in crisis with 2,847 patients waiting for care package

Almost 3,000 people were waiting for a domiciliary care package in Northern Ireland in November, new statistics have revealed.

The figures have led the DUP to state that domiciliary care services are in “crisis”, and to ask the Health Minister how many of these patients are currently in hospital or in step-down facilities waiting to go home.

Health Minister, Robin Swann, has said the sector continues to face “significant pressures”, with demand currently outstripping supply.

Concerns have been raised that the current pressures being experienced in hospitals are being exacerbated by the number of patients who are well enough to be discharged but are unable to leave because there is no care package available.

Northern Ireland Minister of Health Robin Swann said the domiciliary care sector is facing significant pressures (Liam McBurney/PA)

DUP MLA Diane Dodds asked Mr Swann to detail the number of domiciliary care packages that are outstanding in each health and social care trust in Northern Ireland.

In a written response delivered on December 2, Mr Swann provided the situation in each board area on November 22, and November 24 for the Western Trust.

He said that in Belfast there were 836 total packages outstanding, 716 in the Northern area, 450 in the South Eastern area, 528 for the Southern area and 317 for the Western area. A total of 2,847.

He added that the totals include both full and part packages.

Mr Swann said: “These figures relate to outstanding domiciliary care packages in all settings, including individuals in their own homes, and in care homes, alongside individuals awaiting discharge in hospital.

“The domiciliary care sector continues to face significant pressure on services, as demand outstrips supply.

“I have recognised the need for immediate action to support the sector over the coming months and I was therefore pleased to recently announce a £23 million funding package for domiciliary care and care home staff.

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

DUP MLA Diane Dodds said the domiciliary care sector was in crisis (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mrs Dodds responded: “It is absolutely shocking that across Northern Ireland, almost 3,000 people are awaiting care packages. Domiciliary care is in a state of brokenness, but at what cost?

“Having no care package in place means a lot of elderly patients are occupying a hospital bed despite being fit for discharge, or else they are in a step-down facility costing close to £1,000 per week.

“This backlog did not simply build up overnight and is a result of continued inaction to tackle the crisis in domiciliary care.”

The DUP MLA added: “We have been warning the minister that this inaction would have serious consequences.

“Regrettably we have been proven right, with ambulances queueing at emergency departments and huge pressure being placed on our hospital staff.

“The minister recently announced more money for the sector to be spent between now and the end of the financial year. That is a sticking plaster.

These figures are a cause of huge concern and show the minister is currently presiding over a crisis in domiciliary care

Diane Dodds

“We need to see the department’s long-term plan to turn this situation around.

“The figures are staggering. If only one third of that total are in a step-down facility, that would be costing close to £1 million per week. That could employ almost 50 carers for a year.

“These figures are a cause of huge concern and show the minister is currently presiding over a crisis in domiciliary care.”

When he announced the £23 million support package for domiciliary care last month, the health minister said it would enable employers to offer improved rates of pay in a bid to attract more staff into the care homes and the wider social care sector.