There are fears that the ‘meals on wheels’ service provided by the South West Acute Hospital could be lost following a decline in users of the service.

Jill Weir, Branch Chair of Unison Trade Union is urging elderly and vulnerable people in the Fermanagh area who meet the criteria for ‘meals on wheels’ to make use of the service.

She said: “Regrettably the numbers are depleting and there seems to be no one new coming on to the scheme. We would like to make sure that the public know this service is still available.”

‘Meals on wheels’ are hot, nutritional meals delivered to people who are unable to, or find it difficult to, prepare a meal for themselves. A range of meals are produced, taking into account people’s cultural and religious requirements, personal preferences and dietary needs.

Ms. Weir added: “I have been made aware of people who would love a hot meal but because they are maybe in receipt of a 15 minutes call from Homecare, who make them a sandwich, they are not eligible for a hot meal, which I’m sure would be of more benefit.”

Noting that the application for the service is “unfortunately complicated,” Ms. Weir is advising potential applicants or their family members to get in touch with their local Councillor or political representative to assist with the process.

Ms. Weir said: “Simple things like providing a hot meal, ensuring a drink is taken and even the social aspect of someone calling daily, would surely help in keeping people at home and stop the need for some admissions to our already busy hospital.”

“Please do not allow this service to be depleted and lost as once it’s gone this Trust will not bring it back,” she added.

When asked if the ‘meals on wheels’ service provided by the South West Acute Hospital is under threat, a spokeswoman for the Western Health and Social Care Trust (The Trust) said: “There has been a decline in the provision of community meals across the Western Trust area over the past number of years due to the increasing availability of other means of accessing meals from a range of sources and the reduction in service users who met the regionally agreed eligibility criteria for community meals.”

The spokeswoman for The Trust stated that there are a total of 110 clients receiving a total of 313 meals per week in the Fermanagh area currently.

When asked what is the minimum number of recipients required to maintain the Meals on Wheels service in the Fermanagh area, the spokeswoman for The Trust responded: “Meals on Wheels is one component of how we support people in the community. Each client is individually accessed in line with an enabling approach, all support options are explored.”

She continued: “On a regular basis the provision of Meals on Wheels is reviewed with our service providers and a decision made as to how best to commission service in the future.”