The provision of healthcare for the elderly was found to be the major concern among elderly people at this year’s Pensioners’ Parliament.
Anne Watson, chair of the Newtownabbey Senior Citizens’ Forum, took part in the annual assembly of older people in Belfast organised by Age Sector Platform.
Around 200 people from across Northern Ireland took part and Anne was one of the many to make her concerns heard during the two-day event.
She told the Times the main concern among many older people was the pending changes to the National Health Service’s provision of care for the elderly.
Anne said: “Last year being able to heat your home and at the same time being able to buy food was found to be the main concern. This year without doubt it was the provision of care for the elderly.
“The health service is proposing to reduce the number of care homes it provides and instead provide care to people in their own homes.
“They have asked people what would you rather do: Be cared for in a home? Or, in your own home?
“And of course the overwhelming amount of people will say their own home. But what happens when that is not the suitable option, what if you need to go into a home, will there be that provision?
“And if you are going to provide care in people’s homes, then where are they getting the money and where are you getting the army of people to staff it?”
During the parliament, those taking part quizzed health officials, government ministers and a panel of MPs on their concerns.
Anne added: “I would like to make it clear that I am not having a go at the staff, who do a tremendous job and are constantly under pressure to provide a service.
“It is those administrators who are heaping the pressure on and these proposals will only make it far worse.
“The average person who gets cared for in their own home from a health visitor will receive about 15 or 20 minutes of attention, which is already not enough and that might be the only contact that person receives during the entire day.
“How are they going to do that for many more people - it just can’t be done.”
Included in the agenda of the Pensioners’ Parliament was three government ministers from the Northern Ireland Executive, the Commissioner for Older People, the director of Transforming Your Care, the Minister of State for Pensions and a panel of Northern Ireland MPs.
Michael Monaghan, chair of the Northern Ireland Pensioners Parliament, added: “It is clear that older people are worried about the impact that these changes [in health care] will have for them as they grow older and remain unconvinced that the resources are in place to achieve what is planned.
“The recent announcements regarding the closure of care homes and the subsequent reaction has emphasised the need for proper consultation with older people regarding any changes to the health and social care service.
“The Parliament allowed for a full airing of the issue, with around 200 older people from across Northern Ireland having their say.
“The session included a presentation from the Director of Transforming Your Care, and the pensioners in attendance were challenging as always. It is essential that older people’s voices must be at the heart of any changes.”
For more information on the Northern Ireland Pensioners Parliament, visit www.pensionersparliament.org or phone 9031 2089.