Responding to the cuts which have been proposed as part of the five Health and Social Care Trusts’ savings plans, the Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland, Eddie Lynch has expressed his concern that older people are likely to be hit the hardest.

Whilst the cuts to services vary across each of the five Health and Social Care Trusts, cost saving measures include reducing new domiciliary care packages and care home placements by two thirds and stopping the provision of community meals.

Speaking about the savings proposed by the Health Trusts, the Commissioner for Older People, Eddie Lynch said;

“I am deeply concerned that once again, older people will be hit the hardest by budget cuts. Over half of the savings proposed by the Trusts are likely to have a negative impact on older people. Whilst over 65s do tend to use more health and social care services than others, it seems disproportionate that they will bear the brunt of the cuts.

“The majority of the cuts affecting older people are to services within the community. These are services which many older people depend on to live as independently as possible and I’m very concerned about the impact that this will have, both on the older people and on their families. OIder people deserve to have the care that they have been assessed as needing and when this care is not provided, additional pressure falls on family carers, many of whom are older people themselves.

“The reduction of services which enable older people to be cared for at home or in their communities is a false economy. Failing to adequately care for older people in the short term increases the chances of their health deteriorating and requiring more costly intervention. The proposed reduction in domiciliary care and care home packages will result in more hospital admissions and longer stays, which can be avoided. Furthermore, the provision of community services is already under pressure and plans to cut locum and agency staff, who are relied on to address the pressure of nursing and care shortages in the workforce, is likely to create unsustainable pressure on the system.

“These short-term cuts to community services will further increase the pressure on acute services at a time when we are heading into winter pressures and anticipating a bad flu season. This is not a saving to the public purse nor is it in the best interests of older people for whom a hospital stay can be distressing and where the risk of infection is greater.

“A reduction of services on the scale proposed is likely to have a very negative impact on the everyday lives of thousands of older people, their families and carers. I have been heartened by the number of people who have attended meetings, responded to consultations and been vocal in opposing these cuts. I hope that their views and opinions are heard and that Trusts respond to the views of all those who contributed them.

“I appreciate that all five of the Health Trusts have had extremely difficult decisions to make and it is not helpful that there is no Minister nor Executive in place. Whilst there is no doubt that the health service is under pressure, it comes to a point where services cannot be cut any further. I urge the Trusts, along with the Department of Health, to consider the real impact of these cuts on the older people of Northern Ireland and to reduce them.”