Press Release

Patients Wait 15 Years For Resettlement In The Community

Session: 2009/2010

Date: Thursday, 13 May 2010

Reference: PAC 13/09/10

Despite being assessed as fit to leave and keen to move into the community, some learning disability patients in long-stay disability hospitals have been waiting up to 15 years to be resettled.

This is one of a stark set of findings in the report launched today by the Northern Ireland Assembly Public Accounts Committee, ‘Report on the Resettlement of Long-Stay Patients from Learning Disability Hospitals’.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Paul Maskey MLA, Chairperson of the Committee, said: “As long ago as 1995, the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety decided that all long-stay patients with learning disabilities who were cared for in hospital should be offered a better life through resettlement in the community.

“The Department’s initial target was to resettle all such patients by 2002. However, 15 years after the adoption of the resettlement policy, 250 long-stay patients, many of whom are keen to be resettled and have been assessed as fit, remain hospitalised, and the current target for resettlement is 2013. This is totally unacceptable.”

The Committee also found that the majority of those resettled into the community were relocated to nursing homes and residential accommodation. The Committee considers that moving from one institution to another like this did not provide opportunities for integration within the community. The Report calls on the Department to clearly demonstrate how future placements enhance the life of the patient and encourage integration.

In addition, the Committee was concerned that resettlement in the community was not a viable option for some with complex needs. Commenting on this, Mr Maskey said: “We have learned that many families of those with complex needs do not support resettlement and therefore would ask the Department to take into consideration these views. We welcome the Department’s assurance that no one will be forced to leave a long-stay hospital against their or their family’s wishes.”

Finally, the Report also looks at the issue of costs of future resettlement and concluded that, while some work had been carried out, further research was needed. .

Mr Maskey said: “The Committee recommends that the needs of carers, and access to respite care for home carers in particular, be considered in any discussion of future requirements. The contribution made by family and other carers is invaluable: not only do they provide stable and happy homes for their loved ones, but they save the taxpayer millions.

“The Department and its partners in Government need to take on board all the issues of cost, suitability and patient and family preference as it pursues the objective of bettering patients’ lives through resettlement.


Notes to Editors:

1. The report examined Muckamore Abbey, Longstone and Lakeview Hospitals.

2. The term ‘learning disability’ describes a lifelong condition, arising before the age of 18, which significantly reduces an individual’s ability to learn new skills or understand new or complex information and live independently. Levels of learning disability can vary considerably, from those with mild to those with profound disability. Impairments may be sensory, physical or mental.

3. The target for resettlement, and its desirability were the subject of a number of reports published between June 2005 and August 2007, known as the Bamford Review of Mental Health and Learning Disability (NI).

4. Departmental estimates indicate that, to meet the 2013 resettlement deadline, capital funding of £30 million and recurrent funding of £9 million each year will be required. In addition, a contribution of £4 million will be required from the Department for Social Development to fund collaborative supported living schemes developed in conjunction with DHSSPS.

5. Standing Orders under Section 60(3) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 have provided for the establishment of the Public Accounts Committee (the Committee). The statutory function of the Committee is to consider accounts and reports on accounts laid before the Northern Ireland Assembly. These are compiled and laid by the Comptroller and Auditor General for Northern Ireland (C&AG), head of the Northern Ireland Audit Office.

6. The C&AG is empowered to investigate any area of expenditure and has a statutory right of access to all files and papers in Departments and public bodies.

The PAC Committee members are:-


Mr Trevor Lunn

Democratic Unionist Party

Mr Jim Shannon 6
Mr Stephen Moutray 12
Mr David Hilditch 7,10
The Lord Browne 3,4,5,9, 11

Sinn Fein

Mr Paul Maskey (Chairperson) 2
Mr Mitchel McLaughlin

Social Democratic and Labour Party

Mr John Dallat
Mr Patsy McGlone 1,8

Ulster Unionist Party

Mr Roy Beggs (Deputy Chairperson)

Progressive Unionist Party

Ms Dawn Purvis

1 With effect from 04 March 2008 Mr Thomas Burns replaced Mr Patsy McGlone.
2 With effect from 20 May 2008 Mr Paul Maskey replaced Mr John O'Dowd.
3 With effect from 1 October 2007 Mr Mickey Brady replaced Mr Willie Clarke.
4 With effect from 21 January 2008 Mr Ian McCrea replaced Mr Mickey Brady.
5 With effect from Tuesday 27 May 08 Mr Jim Wells replaced Mr Ian McCrea.
6 With effect from Monday, 15 September 08 Mr Jim Shannon replaced Mr David Hilditch.
7 With effect from Monday, 15 September 08 Mr George Robinson replaced Mr Simon Hamilton.
8 With effect from 29 June 2009, Mr Patsy McGlone replaced Mr Thomas Burns.
9 with effect from 18 September 2009 Rt Hon Jeffrey Donaldson replaced Mr Jim Wells.
10 with effect from 18 September 2009 Mr David Hilditch replaced Mr George Robinson.
11 on 19 April 2010 the Lord Browne replaced the Rt Hon Jeffrey Donaldson MP.
12 on 19 April 2010 Mr Stephen Moutray replaced Mr Jonathan Craig.

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