HSE report confirms scale of challenge for older patients “trapped” in delayed discharge beds

The scale of the challenge facing older people in delayed discharge hospital beds who are trying to either go home, move into a nursing home or receive other rehabilitation or respite service, is highlighted in a report published today.

Age Action welcomes the publication by the Irish Independent of details of the HSE’s analysis of the 705 delayed discharge patients in beds on February 24. Of these, 86% were aged over-65. The majority (73%) were awaiting a nursing home bed, 17% were seeking supports to enable them return home, and 10% needed other options including rehabilitation, palliative or hospice care.

“What is clear is that the term ‘bed blockers’ must be binned, as most of the delays are not of their making – many older people are tied up in bureaucratic red tape,” Age Action spokesperson Eamon Timmins said. “In fact it may be more accurate to say that many are trapped in their hospital beds by the system – they are prisoners of the system.”

The HSE figures show that almost half (49%) of those who were seeking a nursing home bed were waiting on a response from the system – eg for their application to be processed or for funding to be made available.

Age Action is also concerned by the fact that 38% of those seeking a nursing home bed had yet to submit a completed application form to the HSE. Further research is needed as to what is contributing to this delay. “For older people who do not have family support, it is a difficult task for somebody recovering in a hospital to complete the complex form and provide the supporting documentation,” Mr Timmins said. “ Additional support should be provided if patients need it and this would help speed up the process for people who are seeking a nursing home bed.”

The HSE report highlights the problems with the administration of the “Fair Deal” scheme which are contributing to the crisis in our acute hospitals. “But the current problems with delayed discharge beds are a symptom of a greater problem within society – of Ireland’s lack of planning for the needs of its ageing population,” Mr Timmins said.

Age Action believes the health service will continue fire fighting until the service is adapted to meet the needs of older people, and society begins planning for the future needs of its ageing population.. This must include adequate investment in our community based services, to support older people living in their own homes. It must also include a properly resourced “Fair Deal” scheme as well as other services such as rehabilitation, palliative care and hospice care.

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