Northern Ireland's Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health, Richard Pengelly, has said public concern over the quality of care home provision must be addressed.
Mr Pengelly was speaking after convening a summit attended by senior officials from the Department, HSC trusts and the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) to discuss care home provision.
The Department today outlined a series of measures to enhance standards and restore public confidence. It also spelt out investment plans to improve care at nursing and residential homes.
Mr Pengelly said: “I want to re-emphasise that we are taking the report on Dunmurry Manor by the Commissioner for Older People very seriously.
“Our first priority has been to seek assurance on the current standard of care at the home. That has been provided from HSC colleagues, as well as through the independent assessment work which we commissioned.
“While I was pleased to hear of the very positive feedback given to RQIA by families of existing residents of Dunmurry Manor at a recent meeting, it is clear that unacceptable failings in care occurred repeatedly in the past. That is a matter of extreme regret for everyone in the HSC system.
“In publicly saying sorry to residents and families who were let down, I must acknowledge that words alone are not enough. Action must, and will, be taken to ensure that failings are not repeated.
“The primary responsibility for care and standards in homes run by the independent sector rests, of course, with the care home provider.
“But Dunmurry Manor must serve as a stark reminder to the HSC system of its important responsibilities.”
The actions now being taken forward by the Department include:
- An independent review of actions by the HSC system in relation to care failings at Dunmurry Manor, with a view to identifying lessons for the future. This will be in addition to the formal HSC response to the Commissioner’s report.
- Aworkshop event involving HSC bodies to address concerns around Dunmurry Manor and care home provision generally – the aim of this will be for lasting improvements and lessons to be embedded into the HSC system. Patient and family voices will be represented at this workshop.
- A scoping review on potential options for additional sanctions for private sector care home providers and companies responsible for serious failings.
- A public campaign to clarify and build awareness of how care home residents, families, staff and other concerned citizens can raise concerns and make complaints.
- An audit of safeguarding investigations in relation to care homes operated by the independent sector.
- Investment in improvement, recognising that, while vitally important, regulation and inspection will not deliver better care by themselves. In this financial year, £325,000 has been allocated to support nursing in-reach from Trusts to care homes. This means Trust identified nurses will work with and support the nursing and residential care home staff to look after all the needs of residents.
- Additional funding of £80,000 will support further enhanced clinical skills to meet complex nursing care needs in nursing homes.
- A new senior nursing post at the Public Health Agency is being established, dedicated to working with independent sector nursing homes and acting as a central point for the HSC to enhance quality and safety of care for patients and residents.
- Identification of a dependency tool to help ensure appropriate staffing levels for nursing homes. This is the latest stage of the roll-out of Delivering Care, the department’s policy on safe staffing.
- A measurement framework for nursing care which has been devised and tested in acute hospital wards will be reviewed for nursing homes. It will include eight key indicators that measure the impact of nursing care.
- The Department will support implementation of initiatives aimed at improving the quality of life for people living in care homes such as the My Home Life initiative
- The Department has also recognised the need for long-term transformation of adult social care, as underlined in the expert panel report published in December. A project team is taking this reform agenda forward with a carers’ panel being recruited. The next phase will include a far-reaching public debate, highlighting the major challenges for policy makers and society as a result of demographic changes, investment needs and the vital importance of staff recruitment, retention and development. The public concern currently evident on care home provision provides further evidence of the need for change.