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New framework planned for nursing and medical input to care homes

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Greater nursing support for care homes must form part of a new future for the sector, Health Minister Robin Swann has stated.

The Minister has made clear his determination to secure investment and reform in social care in Northern Ireland. He has today announced plans for a new framework for nursing, medical and multidisciplinary in-reach into care homes.

The Minister said: “There has been an important shift in the complexity of care provided in care homes over recent years. A greater proportion of care home residents have complex clinical healthcare needs than would have been the case in the past.

“Residents who would have been in hospital five years ago and receiving palliative or end of life care are often now cared for in nursing and residential homes. Residential homes are often now providing a level of care that would have previously been found in nursing homes.

“The learning over the past few months has highlighted the high level of frailty and clinical acuity of residents in our nursing homes. It is beyond doubt that the sector needs much greater resilience.

“Whilst I recognise the wide range of measures deployed to protect residents during the Covid-19 pandemic, it is timely to review how we build on this support going forward. This will inform our ongoing response to the virus and help us rebuild care home provision for the long term

“I have therefore asked the Chief Nursing Officer, Professor Charlotte McArdle, to co-design a new framework in partnership with the care home sector for the provision of clinical care. This work will include examining how we would expand nursing, medical and multidisciplinary support, clinical leadership and specialist skills in collaboration with care home staff. This will include building on the important role of GPs in care homes.”

The Minister said providing alternatives to hospital-based care for older people is essential.

He said: “Care home residents rightly view them as their homes, providing care and connections to families and communities. We must never lose sight of that fact.

“This is not about converting care homes into mini-hospitals but ensuring that we keep supporting homes to deliver the care I know they want to, with the right level of clinical in-reach available at the right time.

“We need to support everyone to have the care they need at home whenever possible – whether that is in a family home or a care home.”

Work is also being taken forward by the Department to learn from care home experiences of Covid-19. A Rapid Learning Initiative was announced by the Health Minister earlier this month.

Concluding Minister Swann said: “We must learn from the experiences of the past number of months, including what worked well. Together with the care home sector, we will work to implement measures that can have a positive impact. This is fundamental in protecting our care home population in any future surge.”

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