Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann (pictured) has ordered an independent review following nine board resignations at the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA).
The nine board members resigned after claiming they were not consulted on key decisions during the pandemic, the Belfast Telegraph reported.
The Commissioner for Older People for Northern Ireland, Eddie Lynch, said: “The resignation of the RQIA board is a very worrying development which could not come at a worse time. It will naturally raise concerns across many areas of the health service but will be an added strain on many families who are concerned about their loved ones in care home settings.
“It is vital that the Minister moves swiftly to reassure families that systems are in place to safeguard and protect older people at this uncertain time, and that steps are taken to establish a new RQIA board as soon as possible.”
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “The Department of Health has been working with the Interim Chair of the RQIA to provide support during what was an exceptionally difficult period.
“Whilst the resignations were not foreseen, the Health Minister Robin Swann moved quickly to appoint Christine Collins MBE as new interim Chair. The Minister continues to have total confidence in the staff working within RQIA and has no doubt the new interim Chair will further strengthen the voice of people who use the health and social care system. The Health Minister has also commissioned David Nicholl of On-Board Training to undertake a review of the circumstances that gave rise to the recent events in RQIA. The Minister’s priority is to ensure that the Department works closely with the new Interim Chair to appoint a new Interim Board by the end of July.”
An RQIA spokesperson said: “The changes to the board membership have no impact on the day-to-day work of the RQIA. We are grateful to our staff for their continued commitment to delivering on RQIA’s priorities. Throughout this time our staff have worked tirelessly and consistently with colleagues across the HSC – as an integral part of the regional response to support services during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Amnesty International UK, the Committee on the Administration of Justice and Unison have called for a public inquiry into Northern Ireland’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis in care homes.
Unison regional secretary Patricia McKeown said: “There is an urgent need for any lessons learned to be acted on immediately, and this includes investigating the concerns behind the unprecedented resignation of the entire RQIA board.”