The Minister for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler, has today published the Fourth Progress Report on implementation of the recommendations of the COVID-19 Nursing Homes Expert Panel.
The progress report sets out the progress achieved across the 86 recommendations in the Nursing Homes Expert Panel’s report and outlines the plans and structures in place to continue implementation along with details of next steps and timelines.
The Report highlights that many of the short and medium term recommendations which were aimed at safeguarding people living in nursing homes against the COVID-19 virus have already been implemented and mainstreamed into normal operations. This includes actions taken by nursing home providers and the provision of a range of State supports to nursing homes which are ongoing, including:
access to expert advice and support via COVID-19 Response Teams
serial testing programme
IPC training and guidance
financial supports under the Temporary Assistance Payment Scheme
The report also outlines the status of progress in relation to the range of medium to longer term strategic reform recommendations made by the Expert Panel. Highlights include:
provision of over €22 million in Budget 2022 for implementation and mainstreaming of a range of Expert Panel recommendations, including the establishment of permanent Community Support Teams, piloting of clinical governance oversight committees and the development of a Safe Staffing Framework for the sector
the development of legislative proposals to enhance governance and oversight of nursing homes
the roll-out of the National Nursing Home Experience Survey earlier this year and the development of a National End of Life Survey for roll-out in 2023
the extension of Patient Advocacy Service to all nursing homes from end 2022
the development of a multi-annual End of Life Care Education, Training and Support Programme for nursing homes
a cross-Department Strategic Workforce Advisory Group is examining workforce challenges in front-line carer roles in home support and nursing homes and is due to report in September 2022
Welcoming the publication of the fourth progress report, Minister Butler said:
"The Expert Panel recommendations have provided a guiding framework not only for the pandemic response in nursing homes over the last two years but also more broadly for a wide-ranging programme of improvement and reform for older persons’ care. I am extremely grateful to the members of the Implementation Oversight Team and Stakeholder Reference Group, nursing home providers and staff, and all those involved in and committed to the implementation of the recommendations for all their efforts over the last two years."
The Minister continued:
"The Expert Panel recommendations are wide ranging and require a multi-annual programme of work. The report highlights the important progress that has already been made and sets out clearly the structures and processes that have been established to ensure continued implementation. I was particularly pleased to be able to secure dedicated funding in Budget 2022 to support this.
"The pandemic shone a light on older persons’ care and highlighted many fragilities within our system and has resulted in the garnering of significant commitment to and momentum for wide-scale improvement across all stakeholders. I am committed to continuing to work with the department, HSE, HIQA and stakeholders in further delivering on this crucially important and extensive programme of work."
Professor Cecily Kelleher, Chair of the COVID-19 Nursing Homes Expert Panel, and the Reference Group said:
"The COVID-19 pandemic posed unprecedented challenges for residential care settings. We need to ensure the wellbeing of older people is at the centre of health policy into the future. There has been much progress, but the impetus must be kept up to deliver on the recommendations in full."
The COVID-19 Nursing Homes Expert Panel was established by the Minister for Health in May 2020 to review the experience in nursing homes nationally and internationally at that time and to provide real-time learnings and recommendations to inform the ongoing approach to the management and mitigation of risk to older persons resident in nursing homes as the pandemic evolved. The Panel reported in August 2020 with 86 recommendations being made.
The Panel’s recommendations focused on immediate actions required for the response to COVID-19 in the shorter-term and on medium- to long-term actions required to affect strategic reform of nursing home systems, operation, policy, and legislation, and on older persons’ care more generally based on inter alia, the pandemic learning.
The Minister for Health and Minister for Mental Health and Older People established an oversight structure to progress the important recommendations contained in this Report. This encompassed the establishment of both an Implementation Oversight Team (IOT) and a stakeholder Reference Group to support the implementation process over an initial 18-month timeframe.
The Implementation Oversight Team, chaired by the Department of Health with membership from across the department, the HSE, HIQA, the NTPF and a public interest representative met 20 times since the publication of the Nursing Homes Expert Panel Report. The Reference Group with membership from across key stakeholder groups met 12 times since the publication of the Nursing Homes Expert Panel Report.
Both Groups have now concluded their terms and ongoing implementation is being mainstreamed into existing or newly established structures and processes reflecting the focus of wider reform considerations.
3 progress reports have already been published. This is the final progress report of the Implementation Oversight Team to conclude this phase of implementation.
The development of this report has been informed by a series of surveys of nursing home providers and by significant and detailed engagement and consultation with members of the Implementation Oversight Group and the Reference Group comprising key stakeholders.
While it is accepted that this broad programme of wide-ranging and complex reform will take time to implement, the report highlights progress across a number of areas.