Deputy John Deasy asked the Minister for Health the reason approval for the Fair Deal scheme is only provided from a current date, when many applicants are waiting 15 weeks for a decision, and have already taken up a nursing home bed; if his attention has been drawn to the difficulty that this poses financially, for elderly persons in need of this facility; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
REPLY (Minister of State Kathleen Lynch):
The HSE's National Guidelines for the Standardised Implementation of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme provide that State Support and Ancillary State Support should be paid from either the date that the release of funding is approved, or date of admission to the nursing home, whichever is the later. This is a necessary feature of the Scheme to enable the HSE to manage the budget for the Scheme.
The budget for the Nursing Homes Support Scheme in 2014 is €939m. At end of October 2014 (latest figures available) 21,926 people were supported by the Scheme. I am aware that waiting times on the Nursing Homes Support Scheme placement list have grown. This is not a satisfactory situation and I am trying to address it.
In addition to the budget for the Scheme, in July this year, the HSE allocated €5 million for an initiative to improve access to appropriate care for older people. To date, this has funded over 300 transitional care beds for patients in acute hospitals from the placement list for the Nursing Homes Support Scheme and over 200 home care packages to assist patients in the acute hospitals who require a home care package to be discharged.
The Government has provided additional funding of €25 million for 2015 to address delayed discharges, of which €10 million will be allocated to the Nursing Homes Support Scheme. In the longer term this issue requires an integrated response across primary, community, and residential services and my Department is working closely with the HSE to ensure that available resources are deployed in the most effective way possible.
Funding was released on 2nd December for just over 1,000 Nursing Home Support Scheme applicants, bringing the numbers on the placement list to 1,071 and reducing the waiting time for funding to 12 weeks.