Patients Wait 15 Years For Resettlement In The Community

Session: 2009/2010

Date: 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.

ENDS

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