AQW 21930/17-22 – Provision of domiciliary care packages

Mr Patsy McGlone (Mid Ulster): To ask the Minister of Health what measures his Department will take in conjunction with the Northern Health and Social Care Trust to address the stresses in provision of domiciliary care packages. [Priority Written]

Minister of Health: There are a range of challenges facing the domiciliary care sector at this time including for domiciliary care providers in retaining their staff.

In July 2021, to assist with addressing the lack of availability of staff to service domiciliary care packages, a recruitment campaign was completed by the Northern Trust in Mid Ulster which resulted in 12 successful candidates.

As you will be aware, demand for new packages currently exceeds capacity available and providers continue to experience staffing pressures. A number of providers are actively attempting to recruit additional staff to meet demand, however, this will take time and is dependent on suitable applicants being available.

Funding has been allocated to Domiciliary Care Reform for 2021/22, for work on a new model of domiciliary care. One element of model has been to identify geographical patches and agree provision with local providers. The benefits are deemed to be less travel, fewer care workers per client, increased staff morale, improved client experience, better flexibility, timing and regularity of calls, fewer hand backs, and better/more equitable waiting list management.

In line with regional guidance, the Northern Health and Social Care Trust has been reviewing current services to identify those that can be changed, re-purposed or stepped down due to escalating COVID-19 pressures, including those arising from acute hospitals.

Trusts continue to work tirelessly to try to ensure all packages are met but there will be times when this is not possible. Part of this work involves engaging with families and informal carers to identify support networks where formal care becomes vulnerable.

For those who cannot manage without a package, and where Trusts and providers are unable to deliver a care package due to pressures, contingency arrangements are put in place and this has meant that some of the most vulnerable clients have had to move to a temporary Care Home placement.

Whilst this is not the situation I wish to see, my Department will continue to work in conjunction with all Trusts, to ensure the Health and Social Care system continues to provide care for those who need it.