HSE promises more homecare hours and free GP care extension

Tuesday 17th December 2019 - Eilish O'Reagan , View Article Here

An additional 230,000 homecare hours will be provided by the HSE next year, according to its service plan for 2020 which will be published today.

Health Minister Simon Harris will bring the plan to Cabinet this morning - setting out how the HSE will carve out its day-to-day budget of around €17.4bn in 2020.

The service plan is expected to say substantial additional homecare hours will be rolled out, although demand for the service is continuing to rise.

The first pilot to test the proposed statutory homecare scheme will be carried out before its nationwide extension in 2021.

It also makes provision for Budget 2020 cuts in the prescription charge for medical card holders by 50c and the reduction of €10 in the threshold for the Drug Payment Scheme, which will come into effect later next year.

The plan will also confirm proposals to extend free GP care to children under eight - subject to negotiations with doctors.

The HSE plan envisages the phased opening of the National Forensic Mental Health Services - designed to replace the Central Mental Hospital - in Portrane in north Dublin.

The target is to maintain the waiting period for a nursing home place under the Fair Deal scheme to no longer than four weeks.

An additional 55 palliative care beds will be opened in Kildare, Mayo, Waterford and Wicklow.

There will also be supports for school leavers with disabilities to access services.

More investment is also promised for disability needs assessment, autism services and for additional respite facilities as well as emergency residential places.

Meanwhile, the result of a strike ballot by consultants in the Irish Medical Organisation is expected to show support for industrial action today.

The move is in protest at the failure to address the pay gap which has left newly recruited consultants hired since 2012 earning €50,000 less.

Any industrial action would be phased and not begin until early 2020.

Mr Harris has indicated he will bring proposals forward to settle the dispute. But he has said it will be necessary for consultants to agree to work more for public patients.

This is part of the drive to remove private practice from public hospitals over time.

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