The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has called for immediate reform, including the introduction of regulation, of Ireland’s home care services.

In line with the vision of the Sláintecare Programme to provide the ‘right care, in the right place, at the right time’, HIQA says now is an opportune time for Ireland to take a different approach to the funding, procurement and delivery of all health and social care services, including home care services.

Carol Grogan, HIQA’s Chief Inspector of Social Services, said: “Most people in Ireland would prefer to age and receive care in their own home. However, homecare operates in complex conditions influenced by funding, availability and geography. The current homecare system is not sustainable and is not meeting the needs of people, with some vulnerable people unable to avail of support in their home. Furthermore, homecare services are not currently regulated to establish and ensure their quality and safety.

“Providers told us that there is a need to reform homecare services which may include the introduction of regulations and standards. The public, and the people receiving services, should be assured about the quality and safety of services.”

Over the last number of years, HIQA has advocated that the home care sector needs a complete overhaul given the uneven distribution of homecare services and the absence of a statutory footing. It has recently published two research papers and a position paper on the need to regulate homecare.

Grogan continued: “Introducing regulation into this area is critical to enhance the safety and quality of care, but it is only one part of the broader reform that is needed. We firmly believe that homecare should be person centred, focused on quality, integrated, needs led, and inclusive of complex care where age or disability status is not a barrier or gatekeeper to access homecare services.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the Government to progress this urgent reform for the people of Ireland.”

HIQA has called for a full ‘root and branch’ review of home care to be undertaken before legislation is drafted, that will involve engagement with all key stakeholders, at all levels across the sector. It also calls for the development of home care standards and regulations that should incorporate the principles of a human rights-based approach; safety and wellbeing responsiveness, and accountability — which will work together to achieve person-centred care and support.

Grogan concluded: “HIQA is prepared to regulate this sector and will continue to advocate for the people who require these services. We need to listen to the voices of people receiving homecare and ensure that their day-to-day experience is at the centre of how services are provided.

“Whether you receive care in a hospital, a nursing home, residential care, or in your own home, you should be supported to live your life safely and to the fullest, receiving the best possible care and support. With an ageing population, the challenges in homecare now will only become more complex in the coming years.”

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