HSE cuts number of patients seeking nursing home care under Fair Deal scheme

The HSE has been accused of being "imprudent" in unilaterally cutting the number of people whose nursing home care will be funded under the Fair Deal scheme next year.

Nursing Homes Ireland, who made the charge, is concerned that patients seeking nursing home care under the scheme may face longer waiting times next year.

The health authority's 2019 Service Plan commits to funding 23,042 people under the scheme every month.

NHI point that the estimate is 191 less than the number of persons funded by the scheme at the end of September (23,233) and is a reduction of 292 on the number projected in the 2018 Service Plan (23,334).

“The HSE is unilaterally reducing the number of people who will be funded under the Fair Deal in 2019 despite the increased care requirements,” said NHI chief executive, Tadhg Daly.

Making a presumption that fewer people will require nursing home care against the backdrop of an escalation of our 'older old' population is imprudent.

“We fear this could lead to an escalation in the number of older people remaining in our hospitals while they await nursing home care.”

About two-thirds of the hundreds of patients in acute hospitals cannot be discharged because they require nursing home care.

NHI, which represents the private and voluntary nursing home sector, is urging the HSE to ensure older people will wait no longer than four weeks to access a bed under Fair Deal.

Launching the plan on Thursday night, Health Minister Simon Harris insisted there was adequate provision within the Fair Deal budget to ensure there was no return to the “bad old days” pre-2014 when there were very long waiting times.

However, while the HSE would do its “utmost” to maintain the 4-week waiting time, it could not give a guarantee it would be achieved.

The plan was described as "nothing short of a disgrace" by the National Association of General Practitioners.

“What we have here is an abundance of spin and a complete lack of substance,” said NAGP president, Dr Maitiú Ó Tuathail.

He said there was no indication of the level of resources available for general practice next year in the chapter on primary care.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation is concerned that there was no extra funding under the plan to provide safe staffing levels for nurses and midwives.

There is a commitment in the plan to implement the Framework for Safe Nurse Staffing and Skill Mix and that will increase the number of nurses in wards but there is no funding to implement it.

Mental Health Reform, the national coalition on mental health, is concerned that the plan has flagged a risk of having to ration mental health services next year.

Director, Shari McDaid, said the services were being asked to find savings because of increasing demand.

The service plan implies that public mental health services will be rationed next year to focus on those most in need, suggesting that some people who should get mental health services will not have access.

Fianna Fáil's health spokesperson, Stephen Donnelly, said it was very clear from the HSE's plan that the difficult conditions being experienced in hospitals would persist next year.

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