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Sage report highlights imperative requirement to enhance GP support for nursing home residents

Thursday February 6, 2020

6th February 2020: Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) welcomes discussion document published by Sage Advocacy Delivering Quality Medical Care in Irish Nursing Homes – Current Practice, Issues and Challenges. NHI welcomes the call for an open and honest debate around the issues that are denying nursing home residents timely access to GP care and Sage call for the GP contract to specifically address the GP care needs of people living in our nursing homes.

Tadhg Daly, NHI CEO states: “We welcome the focus Sage Advocacy has placed upon this vital issue within our health services. It shines a light on a critical health issue. GP care fulfils an essential role in supporting the health and wellbeing of nursing home residents, consistently deterring admissions to hospitals. On a long-standing basis we have been highlighting to Government and the Department of Health very serious issues arising in accessing GP services for nursing home residents. The resourcing has not been put in place by Government to support and enable GPs to provide consistent and timely medical care to nursing home residents.  Resourcing and supporting our GPs to ensure they are positioned to provide such must be a priority for the incoming Government. We must support our GPs to provide their specialised medical care to people across our communities. HIQA, the regulator, has also highlighted residents in nursing homes are being denied access to GP care and they must not be discriminated against because of where they live. Today’s report is another important step in highlighting this important issue and one for the incoming Minister for Health to address as priority. ”


Tadhg Daly, NHI CEO is available for further comment. Media requests will be facilitated by Michael McGlynn, NHI Communications & Research Executive at 01 4699806 or 087 9082970.

Note for Editor

Within its Overview report on the regulation of designated centres for older persons – 2018, HIQA advanced the issue of denial of access to GMS services for nursing home residents. Extract follows: “Common issues raised by registered providers during these regional meetings — and during inspections and regulatory meetings between the Chief Inspector and providers — included difficulties in accessing community allied healthcare professionals for residents, difficulties accessing support from the HSE safeguarding teams and access to medical card services.

“In Ireland, recipients of a medical card issued by the Health Service Executive (HSE) are entitled to avail of a range of health and social care services for free, including general practitioner (GP) services, prescribed drugs and medicines — some prescription charges apply — inpatient public hospital services, out-patient services and medical appliances, some personal and social care services, such as public health nursing, and other community care services.

“A significant percentage of residents living in nursing homes qualify for a medical card as their weekly income is below the required qualifying thresholds. The community care services that a resident may require, and which they are entitled to avail of, can include physiotherapy, occupational therapy, chiropody, speech therapy, dietitians and social workers. In addition, the HSE provides medical and surgical aids and appliances, such as wheelchairs and walking aids, free of charge to medical card holders.

“However, in recent years, providers have reported significant delays and a lack of priority when seeking to access such services on behalf of residents who have a medical card. Such delays have significant consequences for residents of these centres whose health and wellbeing may deteriorate further if they cannot access the therapy they require in a timely manner. The consequences include diminished independence, such as residents unable to get out of bed because a suitable chair, which they would be entitled to receive, has not been provided.

“Some providers — in recognition of the regulatory requirement to ensure a resident’s healthcare needs are addressed — have secured the services of allied healthcare professionals on a fee-per-session basis which is then passed on to the resident and his or her family. Residents and families are then faced with the choice of paying for the service privately if they can afford it or seeing their relative’s health and or quality of life deteriorate further.

“Residents of centres for older people should not be in any way disadvantaged by virtue of living in a nursing home and services that they could have availed of free of charge in the community should equally be available to them on moving to live in a nursing home. The Chief Inspector has raised this issue at a national level with the HSE and has also informed officials in the Department of Health.”