Major increase in Fair Deal waiting lists forecast

Nursing home scheme is ‘Achilles heel’ of health service, says HSE chief

Minister of State for Primary Care Kathleen Lynch has said the Fair Deal scheme  would need additional funding to reduce waiting lists and invest in community supports, and ensure patients did not have to go into care. File photograph: John Stillwell/PA Wire

Minister of State for Primary Care Kathleen Lynch has said the Fair Deal scheme would need additional funding to reduce waiting lists and invest in community supports, and ensure patients did not have to go into care. File photograph: John Stillwell/PA Wire

 

The HSE chief has issued a stark warning about growing waiting lists and waiting times for the Fair Deal nursing home scheme.

The scheme, which funds nursing home care for 20,000 older people, is the “Achilles heel” of the health services and is putting patients’ health at risk, HSE director general Tony O’Brien said.

Unless extra funding is found, the waiting list for the scheme will grow to 2,200 people by the end of the year while waiting times will swell to 18-20 weeks, he told the Oireachtas health committee.

The additional €25 million funding boost for the scheme provided in the budget will suffice to keep waiting times down at the current level of 11 weeks only until the end of this month, he warned.

Despite this extra funding, the number on the waiting list has started to increase again.

In October there were 1,937 people on the waiting list and the waiting time was 15 weeks. By early January this number had fallen to 1,188, and the waiting time to 11 weeks.

Now, however, the number waiting has increased again to 1,234.

Demographic pressures

Mr O’Brien said due to demographic pressures more people were coming onto the waiting list, even though more people were being taken off it than ever before.

The delays in the scheme represented a clinical risk to patients as there was a direct correlation between Fair Deal waiting time and the number of people on trolleys in hospital emergency departments.

Unless the problems with Fair Deal were solved, the health service was in for a difficult 2015, he warned. The financial allocation of the HSE needed to reflect demographic pressures as quickly as possible.

Patients were also at clinical risk as a result of the enforced cancellation of inpatient procedures, as in some cases their condition might deteriorate in the absence of medical attention.

Minister of State for Primary Care Kathleen Lynch said Fair Deal would need additional funding to reduce waiting lists and invest in community supports, and ensure patients did not have to go into care.