The ERSI report warns that increasing home care shouldn't be seen as a "panacea". Shutterstock/Stokkete

A 10% increase in nursing home places would reduce hospital stays by 19,000 days

An ERSI report says that a 10% increase in the supply of home would increase hospital bed availability dramatically.

IT WOULD ONLY take a 10% increase in both home and residential care to drastically reduce pressure on bed availability in Irish hospitals, according to a new report.

A new report by the Economic & Social Research Institute has found that only a small rise in residential and home care could free up dozens of hospital beds every day. 

It found that a 10% increase in supply of home care could lead to 14,700 fewer inpatient bed days every year – equal to 40 beds a day. 

Similarly, a 10% increase in nursing home places would lead to 19,000 fewer bed days every year, a figure equal to 53 beds a day. 

Each bed day represents a 24-hour hospital stay for a patient.

Minister for Health Simon Harris has welcomed the report. “It’s vital when we develop policies that affect people’s lives and healthcare that we have an evidence base for what we’re doing,” he said. 

“I’m very pleased that the ESRI’s report confirms that we’re going in the right direction with Sláintecare, moving care out of hospitals and into the community and closer to home for patients.”

Sláintecare is the cross-party plan to overhaul the Irish health service over 10 years.

One key element of HSE reform has been shifting health care back to local communities and the report finds that older patients with more home care and nursing homes ended up with shorter hospital stays. 

Patients receiving treatment for stroke, hip fracture or dementia would benefit most from increasing care residential or their own homes, leading to less time spent in hospital.

“Increasing the supply of home care and nursing home beds can help reduce pressure on hospitals,” said Brendan Walsh, one of the authors of the report.

However, Walsh warned that the figures shouldn’t be seen as a sort of “panacea” to the persistent issue of hospital overcrowding. 

According to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), last year was a record year for overcrowding in Irish hospitals. 

As of the end of June, 7,217 people were waiting on home support packages in the country. The Irish Independent reported yesterday that around 750 older people will be offered a nursing home place under the Fair Deal scheme.

The report also found that when hospital bed numbers were cut during the last recession, the time people spent in hospital dropped for all patients. 

Concerns have grown in recent years as to how countries will cope with ageing populations. In August, a government report warned that Ireland’s ageing population will put serious pressure on everything from healthcare to housing and education in the years ahead. 

The number of people aged 65 and over is projected to increase from one in eight to one in six by 2030, and the number of people aged 85 and over is projected to almost double. 

“We need to focus on systematically introducing effective early interventions and supports in order that our citizens can live independently in their own community for as long as possible,” Head of Social Care at the Department of Health, Dr Kathleen Mac Lellan said. 

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