Government policy is to support older people to live at home and in their communities for as long as possible. This is achieved through a range of community based services such as mainstream home help, enhanced home care packages, or through various other supports such as meals-on-wheels and respite or day care.
The central challenge facing the health service this year is to use the reduced level of resources available to meet as best it can the increasing needs of older people for health and personal social services. This means we have to prioritise those in greatest need and accelerate reform of our services.
In the case of public nursing homes, the recently approved HSE service plan for 2012 makes it clear that a business as usual approach will result in the closure of a minimum of 555 beds because of reductions in staffing and issues like the age and structure of such units. Accordingly, we need a more proactive approach to the provision of public nursing homes, which seeks to protect the viability of as many units as possible within the funding and staffing resources available.
The HSE is already carrying out a viability review of all its long-stay nursing homes. The review is focusing on a number of areas including the location of units, demographic pressures and the ability to meet HIQA standards on environmental structures and staffing.
In the case of community services, there will be no reduction this year in the level of home care packages being provided. About 10,870 people are expected to receive this important service in 2012, as was the case last year, including about 4,800 new clients.
It is not possible to prioritise every service and there will be a reduction of about 4.5% in the total number of home help hours provided nationally. However, the HSE will still provide about 10.7 million home help hours this year to about 50,000 people. By ensuring the available hours are used to better effect, the number of people benefiting from home help services will fall by approximately 1.2%. We do not have the level of detail requested in the Deputy's specific question. I have asked the Health Service Executive to transfer the information to Deputy Pringle as soon as it collates it.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House.
A number of operational improvements are being implemented in order to deliver the most effective and best quality service possible within available resources. These include a new procurement framework for home care packages as well as new national home help guidelines.
While the national service plan has been finalised, regional and area plans are still being completed. As a result, I am unable to provide details at this time of planned services in Donegal. However, I have asked the HSE to let the Deputy have this information as soon as it is available.