Speech by Minister Lynch on the Nursing Home Support Scheme – Seanad Statement
In Statements made to the Seanad on the Nursing Home Support Scheme , Minister for Older People, Kathleen Lynch TD outlined that she very much regretted the anxiety caused to older people and their families as a result of the uncertainty in relation to the Nursing Homes Support Scheme. However the Minister outlined that the HSE re-commenced issuing approvals for financial support under the Scheme on Monday 13th June, 2011 and the HSE will work through the applications which had been processed to final stage over the past few weeks in the chronological order in which they were received.
Minister Lynch outlined that the Minister Health has also identified savings, from other non-service related spending, which will be used to facilitate the payment of financial support to a net additional 1,700 people between now and year end. On this basis, it is estimated that the total number of people in receipt of financial support by the end of the year should be almost 24,000.
Budget 2011 provided €1.011 billion for Long-term Residential Care. In May of this year the Minister for Health became aware of a potentially serious shortfall in the 2011 budget for the Nursing Homes Support Scheme. The Minister requested that his officials, in conjunction with the HSE, carry out a full examination into the funding situation and the sustainability of the Scheme going forward. Following the examination, it was clear that a number of factors were putting pressure on the overall budget for 2011 which included:
- An unexpected and unexplained increase in the average length of stay for nursing home patients,
- The resultant higher net demand for nursing home places,
- The increase in nursing home costs, and
Minister Lynch further outlined that the Minister has asked the HSE to put in place additional and more rigorous governance and reporting measures which his Officials will monitor closely over the remainder of the year and the Minister is also anxious to try and identify the reason behind the unforeseen increase in applications and in the average length of stay in nursing homes, He has, therefore, requested the HSE to undertake a clinical audit on the appropriateness of care and admission.
The HSE has commenced its Review of the Cost of Public Beds. It is anticipated that this review will show a reduction in the cost of care through skills reconfiguration and driving efficiencies. The Minister has also instructed the National Treatment Purchase Fund to renegotiate with private and voluntary nursing homes with a view to achieving price decreases because the increases agreed over the last number of months are not sustainable.
Finally, Minister Lynch outlined that the Programme for Government commits to review the system of financing nursing home care with a view to developing a secure and equitable system of financing for community and long term care. This commitment will be carried through. In addition, the Nursing Homes Support Scheme is due for formal review commencing in 2012. The Scheme will be three years in operation at that stage. The reason for allowing this period to elapse is to ensure that established and validated trends and statistics will be available in order to inform this work. It is still intended to proceed with this review and it will look at the ongoing sustainability of the Scheme, the relative costs of public versus private provision and the balance of funding between residential and community care.
Read the full speech: Speech by Minister Lynch on the Nursing Home Support Scheme – Seanad Statement