Monday, 13 May 2013

The Residential Care debate

So what have we learned from the Residential Home debacle over the past few days and weeks. We have learned that Stephen Nolan still has the power to influence Government, for right or wrong. We have learned that Transforming Your Care is the correct direction of travel for the delivery of Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland. We have learned that the management speak in Transforming Your Care has not been translated into operational guidelines for Trust staff and we have also learned that when politicians seek to avoid taking responsibility then things go wrong. A change in how society cares for its older citizens is a natural progression as we recognize the need to improve individual quality of life. Thirty years ago older people were to be found living in wards in Geriatric Hospitals, no privacy, no freedom and a poor quality of life. The change to residential care was a welcome advance but such advances should be viewed as a progression not as an end goal. The public loyalty to institutions or buildings undermines the drive to improve conditions. While the move from ward accommodation in hospitals to individual rooms in residential homes was a welcome step, the opportunity to provide higher quality accommodation including en-suite facilities and up to date tele-medicine interventions should not be held up due to misplaced loyalty. The process we have been through has not faltered because the end goal was wrong, it faltered because not enough time and care was taken to explain the outcomes. Trust staff did not understand the goal and as a result a great deal of trauma was foisted on some of the weakest in our society. There are many examples of good practice in terms of supported housing, they illustrate what can be achieved and should be promoted heavily for all to see for themselves what improvements are possible. The priority must now be for the Minister for Social Development to take the lead in determining how much supported housing he will develop to meet the needs of an aging population. Why should it fall to the Minister of Social Development? Age is not an illness, it is a natural part of life’s progression, we should plan for it, build for it and always strive to make improved quality of life a fundamental part of it. Economic reality tells us that to do something in a new way we must stop doing something in the old way, we should not be concerned at such a process but insist always that we do things the best way.