Government policy is, in line with available resources, to support vulnerable older people to remain living at home and in their communities for as long as possible. Where this is not an option, for whatever reason, we support access to short-term or long-term residential care.
In relation to the figure of approximately 600 acute hospital patients referred to in the Deputy's question, the majority of these patients are awaiting discharge to either nursing homes or other care options. Figures provided to the Department show that, of the figure quoted by the Deputy, less than 10% over the period January-October 2012 have been delayed discharges due to awaiting provision of HSE Home Support services.
The HSE has been developing various operational initiatives to improve its approach to all relevant aspects of its Home Supports services. These include various new guidelines for Home Care, and a new Procurement Framework for approved agencies providing services on its behalf. While on-going developments have been designed to standardise and maximise the use of limited resources in the face of increasing demand, they are also intended to enhance quality, safety and other relevant aspects of service for both providers and care recipients alike. This has been a challenging year for the health services overall, including maintaining services in line with evolving resource pressures. The overall provision of home support services is therefore regularly reviewed at national and local levels, in the context of client need and resource availability.
Notwithstanding the recently announced reduction in HSE Home Support provision for the remainder of 2012, investment in these services remains significant with provision in the region of €320m expected for Home Help and Home Care Packages this year. Decisions in relation to the provision of home help hours will continue to be based on a review of individual needs.