Saturday 24 August 2019

HSE outsources 'over half of homecare services' despite private providers being 'twice the price'

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The HSE is increasingly outsourcing homecare services to private providers despite it being twice as expensive as using directly employed staff, it has emerged.

Figures obtained by Mary Butler TD, Fianna Fáil's spokesperson on older people, found it is entirely outsourced in parts of Dublin, covering the north, north-west and north central areas of the capital.

It is also high in Dún Laoghaire, Dublin south-east and Wicklow. It is lowest in Co Kerry and Co Cork and also in Co Donegal, Co Sligo, Co Leitrim and Co Cavan.

The HSE has found it difficult to recruit homecare staff, although their terms and conditions have recently been improved.

However, homecare has a limited set budget and there is already evidence financial pressures are leading to a slow-down in the allocation of the service to new applicants.

"Unsurprisingly, demand for home support hours is high as more people are choosing to be cared for at home if the option is available to them.

"However, the Government and the HSE appears to be failing to cope," said Ms Butler.

"We already know that new applications have been restricted - a regressive and potentially detrimental measure - and now information supplied to me reveals that over half of all home support provision has been outsourced to private and voluntary providers.

"Private care is twice as expensive as delivering the services through the HSE and these figures raise serious questions about value for money. The State already forks out hundreds of millions of euro a year on agency nursing and now it's emerged that the HSE had adopted a similar practice for home support hours. This is very worrying.

"At a time when we are facing overspends of billions of euro on the National Children's Hospital and the National Broadband Plan, the Government should be looking at ways to save money. It is well known that private health care is vastly more expensive."

In response Joseph Musgrave, chief executive of Home and Community Care Ireland said the claim that privately provided homecare is twice as expensive is "simply untrue."

He said the "most recent published data that I have seen dates from 2009 and was published by PA Consulting.

"This report was drawn from the Department for Health and the HSE’s own data, augmented by figures from private providers.  It showed that private care is less expensive than other forms of home care.

"Whilst the situation may have changed, there is no evidence to use Deputy Butler’s assertion as fact – indeed, it appears to be the only source in the story."

He also questioned claims that home care is being outsourced "increasingly" to private providers.

"The figures do not show this. The figures provided to Deputy Butler show the percentage of home care outsourced to both voluntary and private providers with no clear indication of the trend over time.

"In fact, the figures have been pretty consistent for a decade – that is, on a national aggregate basis, the HSE services about 50pc of home care packages, the private sector 30pc and the voluntary sector 20pc."

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News