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Health and Social Care appeal for public support with timely step down from hospital care

Picture of beds with text "Are you ready for discharge?"

Health and Social Care organisations across Northern Ireland today welcomed the Health Minster’s announcement of a support package of up to £23m for domiciliary care and the social care sector.

As Winter approaches, our health and social care service is dealing with extreme bed pressures due to increased demands for urgent and emergency care and sustained high levels of Covid-19 infection in our communities. All our hospitals are working beyond capacity at present with many very ill patients waiting for hospital beds.

In Northern Ireland, as of Monday 22 November 2021, 205 people were in Emergency Departments waiting for a hospital bed to become available. Meanwhile 222 people were in hospital beds medically fit for discharge but delayed by the need for suitable care packages to facilitate their discharge. There were 589 available beds in care homes.

The co-operation of patients, their families and carers is essential to support discharge and help us free up beds during this extremely busy time.

Brendan Whittle, Director of Social Care and Children with the Health and Social Care Board said: “We appeal for the public’s support in these extremely challenging times. We are asking you to help by working with our staff and standing by them so they can continue to help patients and their families get the care and treatment they need.

“Everyone is aware that as Winter pressures escalate, Health and Social Care services across the region come under huge strain. The pandemic is far from over and we are asking patients and their families to support us by accepting ‘step-down’ bed options from hospital to make capacity for those very ill patients who require hospital care. To support these arrangements, care home fees have been waived for patients who step down from hospital to care homes beds until their package becomes available.

“We are already indebted to our health and social care staff who continue to work hard to ensure that patients receive the treatment and care that they need this Winter despite an already challenging year. To assist them, we are asking that patients do not remain in hospital any longer than necessary. We also need families wherever possible, to provide transport to transfer loved ones from hospital in a timely manner when required.

“Intensive work is continuing to recruit domiciliary care workers and address the workforce crisis in that sector.”

To help free up beds required for very sick patients, Health and Social Care (HSC) is issuing the following request for support from patients and their families: