Independent MLA Claire Sugden has said growing domiciliary care waiting lists are leaving thousands struggling, while costly alternatives are haemorrhaging money from the health service.
Nearly 1,500 people were waiting for care packages on June 13, Minister of Health Robin Swann confirmed to the East Derry MLA.
Ms Sugden said this number is likely to have grown since then and affecting friends and family of those involved.
“People are being put in an incredibly difficult situation when an appropriate care package cannot be provided,” Ms Sugden said.
“Apart from those currently in their own homes whose needs have changed or who, for whatever reason, are not now provided for, there are people in hospitals ready to be discharged that can’t be because their care is not in place.
“The Department of Health has offered many of these people a room in a nursing or care home while a care package is arranged. But this is massively disruptive for people, not to mention extremely costly for the health service.
“Staffing issues have contributed to this situation, but so too have economic factors. We have seen some increases in fuel allowance for carers recently, but whether this is able to cover all the expenses incurred by carers – particularly those who cover rural areas – remains unclear.
“The money being spent on care home beds would be much better spent on providing the care packages that people want and need. The knock-on effects are also considerable for the rest of the health service.
“Instead of fire-fighting issues as they arise, a comprehensive plan needs to be funded and put in place to give people the care they want, need and deserve.
“Some plans have emerged, including in the Western Trust areas of Enniskillen and Irvinestown, and soon in my own constituency in Limavady.
“The Homecare Optimisation project appears to be making progress in providing care for more people and achieving greater hours of caring provision – often without changes to the budget.
“If plans like this can be replicated across Northern Ireland it will go some way towards meeting the needs of those awaiting care.”
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