A charity that supports older people has condemned waiting times for people trying to access the Fair Deal nursing home scheme.

The scheme provides financial support for people who need long-term nursing home care.

More than 2,000 people are currently on the waiting list, which is up from 654 people in February.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has said he has a plan to resolve problems with waiting lists for the scheme.

Mr Varadkar said the money for the scheme this year had not run out but said there was a cap on expenditure.

He and Minister of State at the Department for Health Kathleen Lynch met the Health Service Executive today to look at options.

There was increased demand for the scheme, he said.

Mr Varadkar said some of the extra €25m allocated for next year to free up hospital beds occupied by patients ready to be discharged will go towards the scheme next year.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, ALONE Chief Executive Sean Moynihan said this was the only part of the health service where there were no targets or goals to reduce the waiting list.

Mr Moynihan said the problem stems from the fact that the scheme is capped, so that when the funds allocated for it run out, people are placed on a waiting list.

He said there was an urgent need for a plan to be created to address the issue.

The HSE said that €627m had been spent up to August from the €938m allocated for the nursing home scheme in 2014.

It said: "Funding allocation is spread over the course of a full year and in Quarter 4 funding approval for additional places will come on stream.

"There is constant movement on the national placement list with new applicants being approved as places become available. 

"As such, the HSE is projecting that the numbers on the national placement list will reduce to approximately 2,000 by year end with a wait time of approx 14/15 weeks."

Nursing Homes Ireland has said that the scheme is under-resourced and that Mr Varadkar is not dealing with the substantive issue of an ageing demographic.

Its chief executive Tadhg Daly said that today's announcement by the minister is a welcome development, but it is an admission that the scheme is lacking in financial resources.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Drivetime, he said that members of Nursing Homes Ireland are open to discussions with people who are willing to engage in a payment plan in advance of Fair Deal funding being provided.