Age Action welcomes the announcement of increased funding for a number of key programmes for older people in the HSE Service Plan for 2015, but remains concerned that additional resources are needed to address the growing health and social care needs of Ireland’s ageing population.
“The funding of an additional 300 nursing home beds under the Fair Deal scheme is welcome, but to put it in conext there are currently over 2,100 people on the waiting list who have been assessed and approved for a bed,” Age Action spokesperson Eamon Timmins said. “There are a further 850 people in delayed discharge beds in hospitals across Ireland – many of whom are older people who may need a nursing home bed. Even with this funding, the Government accepts that the waiting list will only reduce from the current 15-16 weeks to 11 weeks.”
The €10m for these 300 additional nursing home beds and €5m for home care packages which will help an extra 600 people, along with the 115 short stay hospital beds at a cost of €8m, are all welcome. However, the older people’s charity notes that the funding is coming from the €25m allocated in the October budget to address the delayed discharge bed situation in our acute hospitals.
“Age Action believes that a greater commitment is needed to supporting older people in their own homes, rather than as a means of addressing a problem in our acute hospitals,” Mr Timmins said.
In this context, Age Action welcomes the commitment in the Service Plan to the development of an integrated care programme for older people. “This will involve collaboration between social care and clinical strategy programmes to identify the support older people need to live in their own homes and communities,” he noted.
Age Action also welcomes the €2m provision to expand the coverage of community intervention teams throughout the greater Dublin area. Age Action would like to see the reach of this service -- which helps prevent hospital admission and assists people to return home earlier from hospital -- extended countrywide in the coming years.
The €12m allocated for the roll out of free GP care for the over-70s is also a positive development.
But, the older people’s charity noted that the HSE Service Plan envisages the provision of 10.3 million hours of home help in 2015. This level has remained unchanged since 2013, despite Ireland’s ageing population.
Age Action is also concerned that the number of public nursing home beds covered by the Fair Deal scheme is set to fall by 113 next year. Further clarification is needed from the Government as to what its long term plan is for public nursing homes.