The introduction of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme in October 2009 fundamentally changed the way in which long-term nursing home care is funded and, consequently, the way in which nursing homes are funded. In the past, some nursing homes would have been allocated a lump sum annually by the HSE. However, the new scheme supports the individuals in need of long-term nursing home care, not the facilities providing the care. It is designed to ensure that nursing homes are not being funded for empty beds.
In order to be an approved nursing home for the purposes of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme all private nursing homes, and voluntary nursing homes which previously received funding for long-term residential care under section 39 of the Health Act 2004, must negotiate and agree a price for the cost of long-term nursing home care with the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF). This is necessary due to the commitment by the State to meet the full balance of the cost of care over and above individuals' contributions.
The NTPF is independent in the performance of this function and, in carrying it out, must ensure value for money for both the individual and the State. The NTPF negotiates with each nursing home individually and may examine the records and accounts of nursing homes as part of the process. If price negotiations break down, a three stage review process can be invoked. Details of the process are set out on the NTPF website. Given the independence of the NTPF, the Minister for Health cannot intervene in the negotiations between it and the nursing home referred to by the Deputy.
Finally, the Nursing Homes Support Scheme is currently being reviewed. One of the terms of reference of the review is an examination of the overall cost of long term residential care in public and private nursing homes and the effectiveness of the current methods of negotiating/setting prices. Work will continue on the review in the coming months with a view to completion by end 2013/early 2014.