The MS Society has expressed disappointment following the announcement today (Tuesday) by DHSSPS Minister Jim Wells that the proposed temporary closure of the Regional respite unit in Dalriada will proceed, despite calls to reverse the decision.
The Minister stated that following concerns raised by people affected by multiple sclerosis (MS) and a high profile public campaign to stop the proposed closure, that there will be an eight week public consultation.
Speaking following a NI Assembly debate on the issue, MS Society Director Patricia Gordon said:
“The MS Society is extremely disappointed and surprised that the Minister has taken the decision to proceed with this temporary closure. This decision will have a devastating impact on people affected by MS, particularly those carers who rely on this very valuable service. We are deeply concerned that Northern Health and Social Care Trust has taken this radical decision to close the Regional MS respite unit hastily and without adequate consultation with local service users and carers who will be impacted most. People with MS have been left in the very worrying position of not knowing if they will receive respite or where they will receive it.
“We are seeking urgent clarification on what alternative arrangements will be put in place to ensure that people requiring MS respite receive the respite care they so desperately need. It is absolutely essential the Northern Health and Social Care Trust and indeed all HSC Trusts throughout Northern Ireland fulfil their commitment to provide a range of respite options which meet people’s needs and which offer the same high quality services currently provided at Dalriada.
“We were very pleased to hear so many MLAs, from all political parties, recognising the high quality of care and respite provided by the specialist staff at Dalriada, and we call on the Health Minister to reflect on the comments made today and the impact his decision will have.
“Regular, appropriate breaks are crucial for maintaining the wellbeing of carers and people with MS. The Regional Multiple Sclerosis Respite Centre in Ballycastle currently provides respite care for people affected by MS from throughout Northern Ireland and we are very concerned that people will be unable to access appropriate respite during this temporary closure period.
“The public consultation, while welcome, will come too late for many local families affected by the proposed closure. It is disappointing that at only at this late stage, and only after the public outcry, that the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety have launched this consultation. On behalf of our members we will be responding to this and outlining the invaluable role of respite for families living with MS”.