State-run home care for the elderly suffers from large-scale inefficiencies and a complete absence of regulation, it was claimed today.
A new report claimed the Health Service Executive (HSE) could save €80m if changes were implemented which could fund home help for an additional 16,500 seniors.
The study, conducted by PA Consulting on behalf of the Irish Private Home Care Association (IPHCA), also alleged there was no regulation of home care services for 60,000 seniors nationwide.
The HSE denied the claims, stating the figures used were inaccurate and that new staff are vetted.
Ed Murphy, President of the IPHCA, said the report reveals a real need for the HSE to revisit its approach to the home care market.
“Not only do professional private home care providers offer a less expensive service, they provide quality home care as they adhere to a set of standards,” said Mr Murphy.
“Regulating the home care market is a matter of urgency, it is the only way to guarantee the quality of home care received by Ireland’s seniors.” Mr Murphy said based on population growth alone, the number of home care recipients may nearly double to 96,260 by 2021.
“This heightens the importance of getting conditions right for a regulated market due to the increasing demand that will be placed on Ireland’s home care market in the coming years,” he added.
The report revealed quality guidelines for home support services drafted in 2006 have never been implemented – meaning almost 60,000 seniors are availing of state home care with no monitoring.
It claimed there was a clear risk of abuse due to unsuitably qualified, vetted or monitored care givers, while private sector carers were regulated.
The HSE confirmed there was no statutory basis for regulation and inspection of home care services, but stressed home help staff were supervised.
“The HSE also provides training and induction for its home help staff, it undertakes Garda clearance for all new home help employees and home help staff are supervised by Home Help Organisers and local PHN staff on an ongoing basis,” it added.
Elsewhere the report claimed the HSE spends €340.27m on the provision of home care services, with private nursing homes providing just 4% of these services.
It stated the private sector is 29% cheaper as the hourly cost in the public sector is €29.44 compared with €21 charged by private home care providers.
It estimated a switch from public to private home care providers could save €79.83m euro.
But the HSE said the calculations were inaccurate, stating it provides 11.98 million home help hours each year from an annual budget of €211m - working out at €17.61 per home help hour.
Some packages are higher as they can include weekend and night services together with therapy and nursing care which attract higher salaries.
“Given that the claim that the private sector is cheaper than the public sector is inaccurate, the conclusion that potential savings would mean that the ’HSE could offer home care services to an additional 16,500 seniors’ is also inaccurate,” it added in a statement.