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One of our top priorities should be care for the elderly

Chief Executive Maeve Hully

There is a real need to have a clear plan about how we provide social care in Northern Ireland in the future, particularly for our elderly. Growing concern among members of the public about the ability of our Health and Social Care Trusts to provide adequate care for older people was reflected in our latest People’s Priorities report.

The three key issues identified included increasing the amount of time spent by care workers in people’s homes, increasing the provision of care in the home and improving the quality of that care.

Nearly 20,000 older people receive domiciliary care in their own home each week, according to the Department of Health’s Domiciliary Care Services for Adults in Northern Ireland (2016) report.

Yet this same report revealed that 50% of all domiciliary care visits were between 16 and 30 minutes long. Almost three in 10 (29%) of visits were just 15 minutes or less. 

Health and Social Care Trusts also admit there is a shortage of care workers, which has meant that some sick and elderly people are kept in hospital unnecessarily – a situation called ‘bed-blocking’ – simply because there are no care packages available to support them in their own homes. 

A total of 1,604 people took part in the latest People’s Priorities report, which reflects the strong views people have regarding how their health and social care services are provided.

With thousands of people using the service annually, it is important to understand what their priorities are for the service.

Considering people’s views and involving them in the planning, development and decisions on how health and social care services are provided demonstrates co-production in action.  

In this report we also compared the priorities identified in this study with the findings of previous People’s Priorities projects conducted in 2010, 2011 and 2014 to see whether these priorities had changed.

While there were numerous issues discussed in this project, we found that people’s priorities for healthcare and social care over the past five years have remained consistent, although the order of importance has changed.

In 2010, the top priority was the protection of frontline staff, particularly nurses; in 2011 it was access to and quality of hospital care, while in 2014 it was for frontline health and social care staff.

Waiting times, health and social care staff and the care of older people continue to be important issues. Specific services, such as cancer services and primary care – particularly GP services – have been identified as top priorities in every People’s Priorities reports to date.

We will use this latest report to continue to influence how the planning and commissioning of services can be better informed by people, and we will take every opportunity to make sure that the voices in this report are heard by those making decisions on the future of service delivery.

Finally, we would like to say a big thank you to all those in our Membership Scheme and to members of the public from all parts of Northern Ireland who took part in our survey and helped us to publish this report.

To read the full report, click on

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