Age NI's Response to NISRA Bulletin 8 May Older people in care homes must be the priority for care and protection now and in the future Age NI is deeply concerned about the growing number of deaths of older people due to COVID-19 which are taking place in care homes. Each death represents the loss of a much loved and valued family member, friend or neighbour. We would like to express our sincere condolences to everyone affected at this time. For each of the last four weeks, statistics released by NISRA have confirmed fears that a significant number of the deaths related to COVID-19 have taken place in care homes. The figures released today show that deaths of people in care homes account for 232 (45%) of all the deaths recorded due to COVID-19. We have known for some time that older people, particularly older people living in care homes, face significant risk if they come into contact with the virus. Older people, their families and staff must be assured that preventing and tackling COVID-19 in care homes is a priority. It is now critical for Minister Swann and the Department of Health to take action and ensure expert COVID-19 health teams are deployed as a matter of urgency to support residents and staff in care homes. We want assurances that anyone who needs and would benefit from treatment and care will receive it in a timely way, whether this is in a care home or in a hospital. Linda Robinson, Age NI CEO called on Minister Swann and his department: “We appreciate the Minister’s commitment and efforts to overcome the impact of this dreadful pandemic. No one could fail to recognise the scale and complexity of the task he faces. We all want to be assured that everything that could have been done to prevent these deaths was done and that action has now been taken to address the impact of the pandemic on the most vulnerable. Care homes are going through an acute crisis within the wider pandemic and the very places where frail and unwell older people had hoped to spend time in peace and comfort are now suffering the most. In truth, many older people may have died before their time and their loved ones and care home staff have had deeply upsetting experiences. To respond to the challenge of this pandemic, hospital and community services must work as partners in the delivery of treatment and care. We rely on the health and social care system to ensure that adequate supplies of PPE are readily available. We want to see flexible and effective arrangements for regular testing at all care homes and older people and their families need to be involved in decisions about care and treatment.” Age NI’s advice lines remain open and we have extended our services to provide additional support for older people. We encourage anyone who is concerned for an older friend or neighbour call us on 0808 808 7575. Read the NISRA bulletin If you or an older person you know needs help and support call our advice line on FREEPHONE 0808 808 7575.