Nearly 3,000 people are awaiting home care packages across Northern Ireland, new statistics have revealed.

Upper Bann MLA Diane Dobbs (pictured) has described the figures as “absolutely shocking” and written to the Health Minister, Robin Swann, to ascertain how many of these people are waiting in hospital to be discharged, and at what cost.

The data, obtained from the Health and Social Care Board, show that 2,847 people are currently awaiting care packages.

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The Belfast Trust has the highest number of number of people awaiting domiciliary care packages (836), followed by the Northern Trust with 716, the Southern Trust with 528, the South Eastern Trust with 450 and the Western Trust with 317.

Commenting on the figures, Dodds said: “Having no care package in place means a lot of elderly patients are occupying a hospital bed despite being fit for discharge, or else they are in a step-down facility costing close to £1,000 per week.

“This backlog did not simply build up overnight and is a result of continued inaction to tackle the crisis in domiciliary care.

“We have been warning the Minister that this inaction would have serious consequences. Regrettably we have been proven right, with ambulances queueing at Emergency Departments and huge pressure being placed on our hospital staff.”

The Health Minister recently announced a £23 million support package for domiciliary care to be spent between now and the end of the financial year, but the DUP has described this as a “sticking plaster”.

Dodds continued: “We need to see the Department’s long-term plan to turn this situation around.

“Our care staff are already overworked and underpaid and the Minister need to get to grips with this situation urgently.

“The figures are staggering. If only one third of that total are in a step-down facility, that would be costing close to one million pounds per week. That could employ almost fifty carers for a year.

“These figures a cause of huge concern and show the Minster is currently presiding over a crisis in domiciliary care.”

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