MLAs call for action to protect NHS against privatisation

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The Assembly passed an SDLP motion calling for legislation to be introduced to ensure that health reforms envisaged under the Transforming Your Care policy (TYC) did not result in "privatisation by stealth", on 28 May 2013.

Jim Wells of the DUP accused SDLP MLAs of "jumping on the bandwagon trying to embarrass the minister".

Speaking for his party's amendment, Mr Wells said there had been "a media-led scrum, a feeding frenzy" over the proposed closure of nursing homes.

He said it was never going to happen that frail, elderly people would be turned out into the street.

Mr Wells said 95% of nursing care was already provided by the private sector and that if this was brought back into the NHS, "it would bankrupt social services in Northern Ireland overnight".

Roy Beggs moved a UUP amendment, calling on the minister to provide appropriate local residential care together with a range of accessible care options such as supported housing and domiciliary care.

He said it was a pity that the advice of the commissioner for older people had not been taken on board.

Sue Ramsey of Sinn Fein, who chairs the Health Committee, said it had taken a strong interest in TYC.

She said the committee would be inviting the health unions to give their views on TYC, and that there had already been concerns expressed about private investment in new health centres to be built in Lisburn and Newry.

Kieran McCarthy of Alliance said MLAs should support measures to allow elderly people to remain in their own homes as long as possible.

He said his party was against the closure of services by stealth.

"No department can ride roughshod over any section of our population," Mr McCarthy said.

Independent MLA John McCallister said the change in policy on residential home closures was more to do with the BBC's Nolan Show and the media rather than anything that had been said in the Assembly.

Health Minister Edwin Poots defended his actions over the proposal by some health trusts to close all of their residential homes.

He said had intervened when he saw the decisions were "less than satisfactory".

On the subject of TYC the minister said:

"There are no u-turns on the policies that are contained within these documents."

He said that in 2012 the health service in Northern Ireland had spent £53m to drive down waiting lists.

The minister said there were opportunities to support the social economy.

He questioned the view of the NHS that saw it as "the holy grail".

Mr Poots said he felt the health service "has to be free at the point of need", adding that "the mixed model is the best model for us".

Both amendments fell, and the SDLP motion was carried by 47 votes to 43.

You can see the first part of the debate here.

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