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Report on support services for older people welcomed

Jul 15, 2011

Home Health Association welcomes report on support services for older people

New Zealand Home Health Association media release 15 July 2011

The New Zealand Home Health Association1 welcomes the report from the Office of the Auditor-General on home-based support services for older people (released this week), which notes no systemic problems with how providers and workers deliver home-based support services.   

"We know how hard our members work to support their clients and how important quality and professionalism are to them and their staff," says Julie Haggie, CEO of the Association. 

The audit team talked to home-based support services clients who felt their support workers and the services they received were essential and helped them to live independent lives. The Auditor-General, Lyn Provost, also noted that it costs District Health Boards (DHBs) significantly less to provide home-based support services than it costs to support people in rest homes, making it vital that home-based support services are sustainable, effective and efficient.

Ms Haggie also welcomes the Auditor-General's recommendation that the Ministry of Health look at making mandatory the current voluntary standard for the provision of home-based support services to older people, but thinks that the message should have been stronger. 

"Our members have already made this commitment – they agreed that they need to get positive auditing against this Standard to retain membership. Consumers need to know that the service they receive has met a common benchmark."

The Auditor-General is more critical of how DHBs and the Ministry of Health collect and use reporting information and whether they know if home support is effective and efficient. She says progress against the Health of Older Persons Strategy has been slow, with many DHBs at different stages of implementation. Services for older people and those with chronic disease are not yet fully integrated or coordinated within many regions.

The Auditor-General has also commented on the fact that the economic downturn has put public spending under pressure, and that this presents a significant risk to the future delivery of home-based support services. She tasks the Ministry of Health to provide clearer guidance on how to support the changing needs of older people. She states that with an absence of clear key performance indicators the Ministry cannot effectively monitor and improve service delivery.  
Julie Haggie says the economic stress on providers and their staff is severe, as they try to support clients with increasingly complex needs.

"Staff can get paid more stacking supermarket shelves than they can supporting and enabling older people to live independent lives. We have lost many staff because we can't value their skills and experience. Contract rates are very low, which prevents providers being able to reward qualifications, experience or good performance, or even assure workers of a set number of hours."

Ms Haggie urges the Ministry of Health and District Health Boards to look at the bigger picture.

"Support and health services delivered into the home can significantly reduce pressure on hospitals and avoid admission into residential care.  It just needs the will and the imagination to think about it and plan for it.

"My concern is that health leaders will respond to the report by increasing auditing and box ticking, and that this will simply miss the point."


For further information contact Julie Haggie: 04 472 3196, 0274 989 126

1. The New Zealand Home Health Association Inc is the national body representing providers of home health care services.

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