ALONE welcomes publication of HSE Winter Plan 2020/21

ALONE, the organisation which supports older people, has welcomed publication of the HSE’s Winter Plan for 2020/21. The organisation also supports the implementation of the Home First approach, which aims to provide home support packages to people with complex needs such as older people, and sees this as a positive step in enabling older people to age at home on their own terms.

The Winter Plan, which has been published today, aims to alleviate some of the unprecedented issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and is expected to cost just over €600 million. The main points in the plan include increased numbers of hospital beds available, improved diagnostic services, additional specialist teams and increased numbers of COVID-19 tests per week. The plan also includes the implementation of over 4.7 million additional home support hours by the end of April 2021, which will greatly benefit older people who may require assistance to remain at home.

The Home First approach brought terms is what ALONE and many other in the community and health services have campaigned for many years. It is a targeted work programme, which seeks to double the number of existing home support hours in order to offer full support to individuals with high and moderate levels of frailty, including people with dementia. This approach will include the roll out of a single assessment tool, which will support the Department of Health with the establishment of an interim Home Support Scheme this winter in advance of legislation.

The plan also proposes increased GP access to diagnostics, meaning that the number of older people being referred to outpatient clinics and Emergency Departments will be reduced, which in turn will reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19. GP’s will now have three pathways to support patient discharge, using an assessment model in which all decisions are based on the ‘home first’ principle.

These are;

  1. Home with community support and package of care (Home Support);
  2. Home with re-ablement package of care;
  3. Extensive Home Support packages for those with complex assessment of care needs in order to avoid Long Term Care; and
  4. Increase Home Support hours provided to existing clients.[1]

Seán Moynihan, CEO of ALONE, said, “We are very pleased that the HSE Winter Plan has taken into account the various challenges faced by older people; challenges which have been compounded by the arrival of COVID-19 in Ireland during this March. We welcome the implementation of measures which will further safeguard vulnerable members of society, such as older people. This is a difficult time of year for many, so to have this plan in place is a huge step in terms of safeguarding older people who are particularly vulnerable at this time of year.”

He continued, “ALONE believe that to make this a reality we will need to integrate services in the community with these enhancements to the medical service. As we shift the focus to the home, there needs to be a greater variety of supports and a range of services, that are not just medical, to allow older people to live independently at home, on their own terms. The issue is that current home care services solely relate to ‘personal care’ and does not extend to practical household services. We believe that with the implementation of the Home First approach older people will have a greater say in how they age at home. The NGO Sector looks forward to how we can integrate and support this plan while we also see them major challenges in the amount of changes needed in the health care system to make this happen.”

ALONE is encouraging older people who need advice to call ALONE on 0818 222 024 from 8am-8pm, seven days a week. Contact ALONE if you have concerns about your own wellbeing, or the wellbeing of an older person you know. Further information can be found on