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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

No carers available to attend elderly bedbound dementia patient due to staff shortages

Extra Care car door with company logo.

A number of patients receiving domiciliary care (at-home care) in the Northern Trust, including the Ballymena area, have been impacted in recent days by staff shortages in the sector.

One example was an elderly man aged in his 80's who looks after and cares for his wife who is bedbound and suffering from dementia. The local resident normally receives essential help from carers, employed by Antrim-based Extra Care, who visit daily.

However, the worried gentleman reported that care workers were not available to attend during the weekend past and said he was informed that the situation was likely to continue this week.

Responding to the situation raised locally in the area, a spokesperson for Extra Care told Love Ballymena:

"Unfortunately, we have had to take the difficult decision to reduce the level of domiciliary care services we are able to provide in the Ballymena area at this time.  

"This is due to the difficulties in recruiting sufficient staff in the area despite ongoing recruitment campaigns.  

"We have been working in conjunction with our partners in the Northern Trust in respect of this matter over recent weeks in order to minimise the impact on the Service Users and continue to be a significant provider of care packages as part of our wider contract with the Northern Trust."

The spokesperson for the company added:

"Recruiting the required level of staff is something that many businesses are currently experiencing both in Health and Social Care and in other sectors. If anyone is interested in pursuing a rewarding career in care, they can apply at"

According to the Trust website, Northern Trust directly provides a range of personal care and support services to over 2,300 people in their own homes. In addition the Trust has contracts with a number of independent organisations which also provide personal care to people in their own homes.

Love Ballymena asked the Northern Trust for comment on how many at-home patients were impacted over the weekend and what is the current state of domicillary care service.

While no numbers were provided, a spokesperson for the Northern Trust confirmed "contingency arrangements" needed to be implemented locally over the weekend "in order to help meet the requirements of some service users", adding:

“Whilst a small number of service users in the Ballymena area were impacted over the weekend, the Trust continues to commission homecare services from, and work in partnership with, Extra Care and other independent sector providers to meet the ongoing requirements of all service users."

Beyond the local area, challenges in domicillary care are presently being experienced right across Northern Ireland.

In a special meeting this week with Newry, Mourne and Down District Council (NMDDC), South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, CEO Roisin Coulter a “total overhaul” was required for the care of the elderly and vulnerable.

The health boss also stated that the (South Eastern) trust was unable to accept any new patients with learning disabilities due to the ongoing Muckamore inquiry.

Ms Coulter, stating she would be “open and honest” with the local authority, said: “I have worked in the health service all my life and I have never been as concerned as I am now with the inability to be able to provide adequate services.

“The domiciliary care model in Northern Ireland is broken, it needs a total overhaul.

“The lack of a new health budget is having a serious impact on services.

“I have been told that there is no more money coming into Northern Ireland for health care, this is a major concern.

“We have 5,317 care packages in the SE Trust alone and that number has 500 new patients every month, well beyond what we can provide in the health service, there needs to be a huge change in my view.

“What do people want? They want stay in their homes for as long as possible and it is important to remember that, we need to invest in our community services.

“We have staff working under relentless pressure during the pandemic, but that has not alleviated on the front line.

“How do we attract people into the health services? That is a priority for us.

“With any new government coming in, that is going to be right up there.”

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