Written answers

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Department of Health

Care of the Elderly Provision

Photo of Fergus O'DowdFergus O'Dowd (Louth, Fine Gael)
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309. To ask the Minister for Health his plans to improve alternative forms of housing and supports for older persons who are on waiting list for admission to nursing homes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46878/14]

Photo of Kathleen LynchKathleen Lynch (Cork North Central, Labour)
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While there will always be a need for long-term residential care, older people should be supported to stay in their own homes and communities for as long as possible, and this is what they clearly want themselves. It is my policy, and that of the HSE, that only those in genuine need of residential care should go down that route. As a first step, in 2014 €23m was redirected from long term residential care to strengthen community and home-based services and to develop more flexible and responsive approaches to care. This was in addition to the budget of €315m provided for home help and home care package services which are delivered to some 56,000 people at any one time.

The budget for the Nursing Homes Support Scheme (NHSS) in 2014 was €939 million. Over the course of the year to date, demand for the NHSS has exceeded what could be funded and the national placement list has grown as a result. This has resulted in the waiting times on the NHSS placement list growing to about 15 weeks. This is not a satisfactory situation and I am trying to address it. In July the HSE allocated €5 million for an initiative to improve access to appropriate care for older people. To date, this has funded over 300 transitional care beds for patients in acute hospitals from the placement list for the Nursing Homes Support Scheme and over 200 home care packages to assist patients in the acute hospitals who require a home care package to be discharged.

In Budget 2015 the Government has provided additional funding of €25 million for next year to address delayed discharges. This will fund a range of community and non-acute supports as follows;

- €10mto fund an additional 300NHSS places, which increases the gross budget to almost €949m.

- €5mfor provision of comprehensive home support services,

- €8mto provide an additional 115short stay beds, including the phased opening of Mount Carmel Hospital, and

- €2mfor Community Intervention Teams (Primary Care).

In anticipation of the €10m allocation coming on stream in 2015 the HSE has released funding to support some 300 people in long term residential care. This is in addition to HSE's normal scheduled release of funding.I expect this will have a positive impact by reducing the waiting times on the placement list from about 15 to 12 weeks.

The Deputy will be aware that the NHSS is currently being reviewed. The review is considering the long term sustainability of the Scheme as well as looking at how well the current model of provision is currently balancing residential care with care in the community, and whether this needs to be adjusted to better reflect what older people want. Work on the Review is advanced. It is expected that it will be completed in the coming months and the Report will then be made publicly available.

As well as considering how the Scheme has operated to date, the Review is expected to identify some of the issues that will need to be considered and tested more fully into the future, including possible new models of residential care.


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