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Discriminatory access to community healthcare services must be removed for nursing home residents

Tuesday July 21, 2020

Integration and clinical partnerships with nursing homes must become Government priority to complement heroic staff

21st July 2020: Speaking following publication of HIQA report The impact of COVID-19 on nursing homes in Ireland Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) CEO Tadhg Daly states: “It is fitting the regulator has recognised the heroic efforts of staff in our nursing homes during COVID19. HIQA states residents were “enthusiastic” in their praise of staff, despite the long hours and extremely stressful circumstances they had to endure as COVID19 presented for many nursing homes. The findings in the report highlight the critical requirement to provide staff with supports for their wellbeing arising from the extreme stress they have had to cope with because of outbreaks of the pandemic in nursing homes. NHI is undertaking a lead role in making such supports available to staff. As represented by resident feedback, society owes a huge debt of gratitude to nursing home staff who performed so stoically in the face of extreme pressure and tragedy.”

The report notes the geographic distribution of COVID-19 cases in nursing homes nationally was broadly consistent with that of the general population reflective of the high levels of community transmission. It presents requirement for enhanced integration of our nursing homes into the wider health services. Mr Daly states: “We must move towards a model of care whereby discriminatory access to community healthcare specialists for residents in our nursing homes is removed. For a number of years, NHI has highlighted this issue and COVID19 must now deliver State compulsion to address inconsistencies in providing nursing home residents with access to critical medical and healthcare services. The regulator has previously highlighted measures being undertaken by nursing homes to meet a gap within our health services that sees the State fail to provide medical services that are critical to residents health and wellbeing. Nursing homes are absolutely vital healthcare providers operating in our communities. A critical learning from COVID19 must entail enhanced integration between nursing homes, community health programmes and specialist healthcare professionals such as geriatricians, GPs and allied health professionals.”

Professor Dermot Power, newly appointed NHI Gerontology Expert, states the relationship between community medical and healthcare professionals and nursing homes is too inconsistent, fractured and unstructured. He states: “As a more assured COVID19 footing presents, the new Minister for Health should initiate a process that will promote enhanced integration between community healthcare professionals and private and voluntary nursing homes. With these settings providing 80% of nursing home care, a new dynamic must be introduced to our methods of delivering healthcare for those availing of care within these homes. Greater and formalised collaboration between medical and healthcare professionals with nursing homes in their locality should become a core focus to support healthcare delivery. Nursing homes have significant clinical expertise but there is requirement for structured clinical partnership at local level to be greater utilised to address the varied medical, health and social care needs of residents. This will also entail assessment of priorities, obligations and resourcing for community healthcare professionals.”

The HIQA report also recommends more detailed, local epidemiological data is made available to nursing home providers. “This is in keeping with our recommendation to the COVID19 Expert Panel that public health alert nursing homes when new cases  present within the geographical area as part of an early warning system,” Mr Daly states.


Tadhg Daly, NHI CEO is available for further comment. Interviews will be facilitated by Michael McGlynn, NHI Communications & Research Executive, who can be contacted at 087 9082970.

Note for Editor

The most recently published HIQA Overview report on the on the regulation of designated centres for older persons (for year 2018) informs of the difficulties presented in accessing community allied healthcare professionals for residents and difficulties in accessing support from the HSE safeguarding teams and access to medical card services.