Government policy is to support older people to live at home and in their communities for as long as possible and, where this is not an option for whatever reason, to support access to high quality long term residential care. The Government has in recent years provided significant investment to the Health Service Executive, to develop its range of community based services to older people.
The Department of Health and Children accepts the need for a more standardised approach to the regulation of home care generally, whether by statutory or non-statutory providers. The HSE, and the Department progressed during 2010, various improvements in home care provision overall, particularly relating to the governance of services. The position in relation to these is that:
The National Guidelines & Procedures for Standardised Implementation of the Home Care Packages Scheme was recently completed, and will be implemented across all Local Health Offices in 2011.
The HSE launched a Public Procurement Framework for Home Care Services on 22 October last. The Executive is at present progressing this, in line with the requirements and procurement timeframes contained in the Framework.
The Executive is also progressing, with a view to implementation in 2011, Quality Guidelines for Home Care Support Services for Older Peopleand National Guidelines for the Home Help Service.
The Procurement Framework, together with the Quality Guidelines, will enhance the standard of Home Care services provided by, or on behalf of, the HSE.
With reference to the possible regulation of home care services, the July 2008Report of the Commission on Patient Safety and Quality Assurance recommended, amongst other things, the extension of licensing systems to the primary health care area. The Law Reform Commission published, in July 2009, a consultation paper entitled Legal Aspects of Carers. This considers the legal issues surrounding home care and makes a number of provisional recommendations in the area of standards and regulations generally.
As previously indicated to the House, the question of possible changes to legislation, including regulation and inspection, for the area of Home Care for older people generally is under consideration. The Department is, at present, examining the regulation of this sector in the overall context of the licensing of Health Care providers. Legislation is currently being prepared in this regard, taking into account the recommendations of the Commission on Patient Safety, and the Law Reform Commission.
The Government is determined to do everything possible to protect all older people receiving Home Care. Our approach is to progress the various initiatives I have outlined, while examining the options and implications of introducing statutory regulation. It is not possible at this stage to provide a timeframe to indicate when any new statutory regime might be introduced. I wish to assure this House, however, that the Department of Health and Children will progress this work as quickly as possible, in conjunction with monitoring the other initiatives I have outlined above. This would include liaison, as appropriate, with relevant statutory and non-statutory organizations to ensure quality standards for all people receiving Home Care.