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Over a thousand names added to home help waiting list in space of four months as total surges to 7,300

The latest HSE figures from July show that 7,300 people are waiting on home support services.

Image: Shutterstock/Photographee.eu

OVER A THOUSAND names have been added to home help waiting list in space of four months as the total surges to 7,300.

According to the latest HSE figures on people waiting on home support services, the number rose by 83 people since June, when 7,217 were on the waiting list. 

The rise represents an increase of over 1,062 people since March of this year, when 6,238 were on the waiting list. 

The August figures are yet to be collated by the HSE. 

Home help aims to support older people to remain in their own homes for as long as possible. 

The Home Support Service provides patients with support for everyday tasks including, getting in and out of bed, dressing and undressing and personal care such as showering and shaving. 

Home help hours are given to people who need support to continue living at home or to people returning home following a hospital stay. 

The nationwide figure represents patients who have been assessed and approved for home support, but cannot be facilitated as funding is not immediately available. 

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, the HSE said the number of people in receipt of home support will vary constantly as people’s needs change, stating that hours are re-allocated to people for a number of reasons as people may require more support or less at a point in time. 

Numbers on the rise

Sinn Féin’s Louise O’Reilly has previously blamed the rise on a freeze in hours, something the HSE has denied is taking place. 

The HSE said the demand for home support “continues to grow”.

The main reason is the increase in Ireland’s older population, said the HSE, stating that as the number of people over 65 increases so too does the demand for home support as people become more dependent.

“As of the end of July, approximately 7,300 people are waiting on home support services. The majority of those waiting are living in their own home, a number of whom are already in receipt of home support but are awaiting additional support,” the HSE said, adding:

All those waiting for home support are assessed and provided with a new or additional service as soon as possible. People being discharged from acute hospitals, who can return home with supports, are prioritised nationally.
There are currently 33 people currently awaiting home support (application complete and patient awaiting funding) before they can be discharged from hospital.

TheJournal.ie previously reported that the number of people waiting in each county varies dramatically and is dependent on where a person lives, the population in that area and the resources allocated in each community. 

Cost of keeping people in hospital 

O’Reilly said it is ”It’s penny-wise and pound foolish” not to provide home supports to those that need it as it ends up costing more in hospital costs in the long run.

She added that it is “expensive and bad for patients” to be left in hospital when they could be returned home. 

Describing the overall increase in the figures as “awful”, she said the latest home help numbers come as it is revealed that over 598 admitted patients were waiting for beds yesterday, according to the latest INMO Trolley Watch figures. 

“Imagine being told that you can’t go home, because there are no home help hours. Imagine being a patient and being told you can’t leave the hospital, all the while knowing that downstairs in the emergency department, people are waiting on trolleys for a bed,” she said.

The issue of home help was also raised in the Dáil yesterday, with Independent TDs Mattie McGrath and Carol Nolan, as well as Fianna Fáil’s Mary Butler and John McGuinness all stating that they have heard personal stories from their own constituency.

McGrath said one constituent was told there was no home help available for her when she leaves hospital, stating “this is happening up and down the country”.

“It is shocking,” he said, adding that beds in hospitals are being blocked as people cannot leave.

Fianna Fáil’s John McGuinness said elderly people are being sent home with “no help whatsoever”. He asked Finance and Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe to seek an urgent report from the HSE as to how they are going to deal with the matter.

In terms of the people who are at home, but awaiting on more home help hours, O’Reilly said these people are at risk of ending up back in hospital, if they do not get the home support packages needed to assist them in staying in their own homes.

Earlier this month, Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Older People, Mary Butler, said the number of delayed discharges in hospitals has surged over the summer months due to the restrictions on home care for older people.

She said the figures have risen from 599 in June to 672 in July and to 734 at the end of August.

A patient is categorised as a delayed discharge when they no longer require care in an acute hospital setting but have no access to an appropriate step-down care facility.

She said there was little doubt that the crisis in home help is having a major role in delays, stating:

“It has always been clear to me that the restrictions on home care for older people would put further pressure on acute hospital services as the restrictions will exacerbate the problem of delayed discharges.”

“Older people want to be in their own homes with the correct wrap around supports, and not languishing in a hospital bed simply because the correct step down facilities are not available, while hospitals and medical staff throughout the country struggle with continuous overcrowding and patients lying on trolleys, some in excess of 24 hours,” she concluded.

Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, she said the latest figures show that there is a moratorium on home help hours, despite what the HSE is stating.

The HSE has denied this but said local managers had been told to stay in line with their budgets.

It states more than 17.9 million will be provided for home support hours to 53,000 people in 2019.

Minister Donohoe said he is working with the Health Minister Simon Harris on the issue, stating that he is aware of the issues being raised by TDs. Donohoe said work is underway as he understands that delays in home help hours could compound problems for the emergency departments and hospitals heading into the winter.

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