Written Answers. - General Medical Services Scheme.

Richard Bruton

Question:

389 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Health and Children if he has examined the case for allowing additional pension years to nurses who have worked for a certain minimum period; if such a concession is already available to psychiatric or other grades within the health services or other services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8100/01]

Psychiatric nurses currently enjoy special early retirement and enhanced pension arrangements. There are no plans to extend those arrangements to other groups of nurses.

Gay Mitchell

Question:

390 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will ensure that the family of a deceased person (details supplied) in Dublin 24 receives a refund of expenses. [8101/01]

John Gormley

Question:

396 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Health and Children if he has received correspondence from a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8221/01]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 390 and 396 together.

The report of the Ombudsman into the nursing home subvention scheme identified a number of issues relating to the operation of the scheme and the findings of the report are being fully considered in my Department. It is the intention of my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, to bring proposals to Government in relation to whatever additional measures may be necessary arising from the Ombudsman's report, the forthcoming expenditure review of the subvention scheme, together with experience gained from the operation of the scheme since its inception in 1993.
Our immediate priority is to ensure that the two aspects of the regulations that have the most direct impact on nursing home patients and their families are fully addressed without delay. Arrangements have already been made to enable nursing home patients and their families who may be due payments arising from the provisions in the regulations relating to the retention of one fifth of the rate of non contributory old age pension for personal use to be refunded speedily.
It has also been decided that payments should be made to those who were adversely affected by the provision in the regulations which allowed for the assessment of circumstances of adult sons and daughters and which was removed with effect from 1 January 1999. A group representing my Department and the health boards Eastern Regional Health Authority has been established and is putting in place procedures to ensure that moneys will be paid in a uniform manner as quickly as possible to those whose subvention was unfavourably affected by this regulation. It is expected that these payments will cost in the region of £6 million.
However, as the Deputy will appreciate, this will be a complex exercise involving, inter alia, difficult issues of traceability and it may take some time to complete. Nevertheless, I can offer assurance that every effort will be made to make payments as quickly as possible. In the particular case referred to by the Deputies, I have asked the regional chief executive of the Eastern Regional Health Authority to investigate the matter and reply directly.