New report on community care for stroke victims reinforces The Carers Association’s continued call for action on homecare services in Ireland

Transfer of care protocols could save the State €12million per annum

The Carers Association is renewing its call on the Government to take action on legislation for statutory homecare entitlements, following a report published today, which states that stroke patients could benefit from better rehabilitation in the community rather than longer stays in hospital as they recover.

The report carried out by the ESRI and the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland entitled “Towards earlier discharge, better outcomes, lower cost: stroke rehabilitation in Ireland” was funded by the Irish Heart Foundation.

The study found that 54% of stroke survivors could be discharged from hospital earlier each year and that this move to care in the community would free up acute hospital beds and save up to €12m from reduced hospital length of stay. The authors also added that some 3,000 patients would benefit each year from community rehabilitation, reducing hospital bed days by 24,000.

Catherine Cox of the Carers Association says, “The government has to look at statutory entitlement to homecare services. We have been calling for this for years and it is included in our pre-budget submission once again this year. There needs to be a ‘transfer of care protocol’ when a patient is being discharged from hospital to be cared for at home or in the community. We have been highlighting the inadequacies in available resources to fund this service for a long time as we already know that the level of care in the home is superior to that of hospital when a patient is at recovery stages.”

The report also found that the funding of community care could be found in the savings made from the reduced number of bed days patients needed. Although the report pointed out that for community care to succeed, there would be a substantial increase needed in the resourcing of community nurses and community therapists.

“Money has to follow the patient,” said Catherine Cox. “We need to see legislation to ensure a statutory entitlement to homecare services and we have to see this government policy implemented before community or home care becomes a viable option. In practice there is poor support for home carers or for patients recovering at home and this level of support varies widely from region to region. We already know that we could save appox €12million by simply reducing the lengths of stays for patients in hospitals and increasing community supports, freeing up beds for patients who are more in need of hospital beds.”

The Carers Association has been calling for statutory rights to homecare services similar to those of the Nursing Home Fairdeal Scheme and this report has echoed those sentiments in its recommendations that homecare for stroke patients requires a substantial increase in funding if it is to be implemented.

The Carers Association has lobbied for support for homecare services on an annual basis outlining the savings to the exchequer if a patient could be cared for at home. The marginal cost of implementing homecare for stroke survivors is one third of the cost of an in-patient day.