Health review puts future of care home in doubt

Facing an uncertain future: Clonmore House in Rathcoole. INNT 22-414-RM
Facing an uncertain future: Clonmore House in Rathcoole. INNT 22-414-RM

A RATHCOOLE care home which was saved from possible closure three years ago is once again facing an uncertain future.

In early 2009, Clonmore House was named as one of five care homes facing possible “closure” under the Northern Health Trust’s modernisation plans, sparking fears among elderly residents, their relatives and members of staff.

However, following a public outcry about the plan, Trust chiefs confirmed that the care home would not be closing and gave an assurance that their proposals were about “retaining and developing services locally.”

Now, as the Trust considers its response to the ‘Transforming Your Care’ (TYC) document - the latest review of health and social care services across Northern Ireland - the Crossreagh Drive facility could once again be facing closure.

One of the key recommendations of the ‘Compton Report’ was the development of local ‘Population Plans’ for each of the five Local Commissioning Group (LCG) areas in Northern Ireland by June 2012.

“The LCGs have been charged with leading the development of plans to identify the future needs for an area and, working closely with Health and Social Care Trusts and other service providers, to describe how best to meet those needs in a safe, effective and resilient way. The plans will also identify the changes required in each area over a three to five year period to take forward the recommendations set out in TYC,” a Northern Trust spokesperson explained.

“As part of the planning process the Northern LCG and Northern Trust are currently undertaking a number of meetings with staff at all levels, local political representatives, councils and local community and voluntary groups. These meetings are part of an ongoing discussion focusing on how TYC is developed and implemented in the Newtownabbey area.”

Following a recent meeting between Trust officials and several local politicians, Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs warned that the latest proposals, if implemented, could see all NHS Trust residential homes in Northern Ireland - including Clonmore House - being closed down by 2015.

“I was aware that the Compton Report reiterated the overall long term policy goal of the Department of Health to transfer resources in elder care from institution settings to care in the community and home. The Review also indicated an increasing use of the private sector, and spoke of a reduction of residential home places. However the Trust appears to have interpreted Compton as meaning the closure of all its residential homes within three years,” he said.

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds, who backed the 2009 campaign to keep Clonmore open, added: “The Compton Review sets out proposals for the direction of travel for the future provision of health and social care services in Northern Ireland. As I understand it, over time it is proposed that more people will be treated in their own home with appropriate support.

“Any such move will require full discussion with people in care and their families. Decisions regarding specific residential homes will be the responsibility of the relevant Health Trust. I will be seeking the earliest indication of information on the Trust’s thinking.

“I will continue to stand up for the provision of quality residential care for those in need of that service in my constituency as I have in the past and I will bring matters to the Minister’s attention where necessary.”

Clonmore House Manager Jeanette Mitchell said she was unable to comment on the issue, but the Northern Trust spokesperson stressed that no concrete proposals are yet in place regarding the future of the 42-bed facility.

“At this point no decisions have been made. The Northern Population Plan will be presented at the June meeting of the Northern Trust Board and the June meeting of the Northern Local Commissioning Group. From there the Plan will go forward, along with Plans from other LCGs, to the Health and Social Care Board and the Minister (Edwin Poots).

“All five Population Plans will then be brought together to provide an over arching implementation plan setting out a clear roadmap for the operational delivery of Transforming Your Care. A period of consultation will follow,” she added.