Wait time for nursing home bed halved to four weeks
The waiting time for a nursing home bed under the Fair Deal scheme has halved in the past year, from eight to four weeks, new figures reveal.
The number of people on the waiting list has also dramatically fallen from 1,265 in May 2014 to 557.
It comes in the wake of around €44m in top-up funding for the scheme announced by Health Minister Leo Varadkar earlier this year after it emerged that 2,000 older people were facing delays of up to 15 weeks .
The hope is that the waiting times will not jump again later in 2015 as funding for the scheme comes under pressure.
Waiting times in all areas of the country have now been cut, according to the figures supplied by Michael Fitzgerald, of the HSE's Services for Older People, in a response to Fianna Fáil TD Billy Kelleher.
Mr Fitzgerald said that once an applicant is passed for financial support under the scheme, they are put on a national placement list. People on the national placement list are subsequently approved for funding in chronological order.
"Delays in getting a place in a nursing home may occur for a number of reasons, including the person cannot source a suitable nursing home place.
"The person may require other health services prior to going into long-term residential care or the person is on the scheme's national placement list awaiting release of funding under the scheme."
He added: "Currently, the wait time for persons receiving funding approval is four weeks, down from 11 weeks in quarter one."
He added: "The scheme continues to take on new clients within the limits of the resources available. In May, it provided financial support for 22,605 people."
It is planned that by the end of the year 23,965 will be supported by the scheme.
It comes as the Department of Health plans to publish its review of the Fair Deal scheme and the options on how it should be funded in the future.
Currently, most people in the scheme pay during their lifetime through a combination of State subsidy and a contribution from their own income.
The review is due to suggest a range of options including no longer allowing assets of €36,000 for a single person or €72,000 to be excluded from the means test.
It also suggests the 7.5pc-a-year contribution from the nursing home resident rise over three years to 10pc.
Social Care Minister Kathleen Lynch has already ruled out any increase in contribution "in the lifetime of this Government".
However, the review is expected to have implications for the future funding of the scheme as the population ages.
The question of some payment for people who receive home help or home care packages is also likely to have to be looked at.
People could pay a contribution in their lifetime, or else allow for the payment to be made from the estates after death.