Thursday 19 September 2019

HSE needs extra €320m to look after the elderly

Ageing population leads to huge funding gap

Concern: Junior minister Jim Daly will report before Budget Photo: Tom Burke
Concern: Junior minister Jim Daly will report before Budget Photo: Tom Burke
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

The health service needs a €320m funding injection next year to meet the growing demands of older people, according to an unpublished HSE report.

The report will show that the HSE is creaking under the pressure of providing services for an ageing population and needs substantial investment in next year's Budget.

Older People Minister Jim Daly confirmed yesterday that he had received the report and said it showed the challenges faced by the Government in providing services in this area.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent last night, Mr Daly said: "I will consider all elements of this report ahead of my Budget submission but I will certainly be prioritising targeted payments and improving services for vulnerable people ahead of payment increases across the board."

Given the limited financial resources available to the Government ahead of the Budget, it will be impossible for the HSE to fill the funding gap next year. This will put huge pressure on already stretched services for older people and lead to longer waiting lists for those in the queue for home care packages and Fair Deal nursing home places.

The Fair Deal scheme, which sees the State contribute toward the cost of nursing home places, will need more than €40m in additional funding next year, while €140m is required to meet the demand for home help and home care packages.

The detailed review of HSE services also reveals that it will cost the State an extra €7.5m a year to exclude farming land when calculating patient contributions to the Fair Deal scheme.

Health service chiefs estimate that they will need at least €974.8m to cover the cost of providing the service to more 24,000 people next year.

More than 4,600 people are on waiting lists for home help and home care services. The HSE estimates that it will cost more than €30m to clear the logjam.

Mr Daly said the report provided stark findings on the country's ageing population, with the number of people aged over 65 set to grow by 42pc in the decade between 2011 and 2022. This means that there will be an additional quarter of a million over-65s living in the country, bringing the total amount to 755,222. The number of over-85s is also expected to grow by 52pc in the same period, bringing the total number to 88,575. Within the next year alone, the number of over-65s is projected to increase by 21,815.

Life expectancy in Ireland has recently increased and currently men live on average to 79 and women to 81.

The HSE report found that resources for older people had not increased in line with the growth in the population. The increase in the over-85s group has put a particular strain on services owing to their complex needs and care.

Mr Daly said the report showed the difficulties faced by the Government in providing services for people who are living longer.

"The Services for Older People Estimates 2018 is currently at a draft stage but it clearly shows that the area will need major investment in the coming years due to Ireland's ageing population," he said.

"Obviously, we will not receive the full €320m needed to plug the funding gap this year but the report highlights the need for substantial investment in older people services.

"The challenge will be meeting the demands with resources available. I will continue to engage with interest groups and officials to ensure any additional funding we receive is directed toward the areas most in need in investment."

Sunday Independent

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