The Committee was reminded that the Council, at its meeting on 2nd November, had passed the following motion on the Implementation of Care Partner Arrangements in Nursing and Care Homes, which had been proposed by Councillor McAteer and seconded by Councillor Groves:
“This Council recognises the distress, confusion, physical and cognitive deterioration experienced by residents with dementia living in nursing homes, due to the lockdown in Spring 2020 and the subsequent curtailment of visits with relatives to one visit per week.
The Council also recognises the pain experienced by relatives of nursing home residents with dementia, many of whom, pre-Covid-19, cared daily for their loved ones in nursing homes, assisting them with washing, dressing, eating, drinking and exercise and provided them with love and cognitive stimulation.
Whilst the Council acknowledges the spread of the Covid-19 virus and adheres to the Executive guidelines on Council on public health, it also supports the “Regional Principles for Nursing and Residential Care homes in N Ireland” (published by the Department of Health on 23rd September, 2020), which establishes the designation of relatives or close friends as “Care Partners” and stipulates that care and nursing homes should facilitate Care Partner arrangements to enable relatives to assist with the communication, physical and emotional needs of their loved ones in care and nursing homes.
The Council calls upon the Minister of Health to provide the necessary human, financial and technical resources to nursing and care homes to ensure the immediate practical implementation of safe and secure Care Partner arrangements which will underpin the rights of dementia patients in nursing homes and deliver improved health and wellbeing outcomes for them and their families.”
The City Solicitor informed the Committee that a response had now been received from the Minister of Health.
The Minister had begun by pointing out that the most recent visiting guidance relating to care homes, including information on the care partner concept, could be accessedhere.
He explained that, in November, the Department of Health had published on its website additional guidance on the Care Partner concept, including a Frequently Asked Questions document here and an Information Leaflet for Care Home Residents and their Families here.
In addition, the Chief Nursing Officer and the Chief Social Work Officer had issued the following joint letter to residential and nursing care home providers regarding the implementation of care partners in care homes in Northern Ireland here.
The Minister had gone on to explain that care homes were actively encouraged to adhere to all aspects of the revised visiting guidelines, including the introduction of care partners. The expectation was that care homes would continue to work to facilitate a range of visiting options, in accordance with the detail of the visiting guidance aligned with the Alert Level relevant at the particular time and the care home’s individual circumstances. All decisions would be based on a risk assessment of the environment and would rely on the ability to ensure social distancing and the safety of residents, staff and the visitor.
He stated that he had, on 22nd October, announced an additional allocation of £27.3m to the care home sector, which had included financial support for a number of measures which required additional management time in order to respond to the impacts of Covid-19. Of that, £9m had been allocated directly to care homes to reflect the cost of i). the rolling programme of testing for both residents and staff; ii.) overseeing safe visiting and setting up care arrangements; and iii). the increased management time needed to oversee homes.
Following that announcement, the Director of Mental Health, Disability and Older People had written to care homes and Chief Executives of the Health and Social Care Trust to outline how organisations could apply for additional funding and how it would be allocated to homes.
The Minister had concluded by stressing that his Department recognised that the role of the care partner was of critical importance to the health and safety of care home residents. Whilst it was acknowledged that the concept may be challenging for care homes to implement whilst mitigating against the transmission of Covid-19, where there were difficulties in progressing the role, Health and Social Care Trusts had been asked to support care homes to seek a solution as a matter of urgency.
The Committee noted the information which had been provided.