As the Deputy will be aware, an expenditure review of the nursing home subvention scheme has been carried out by Professor Eamon O'Shea, National University of Ireland, Galway. The review was commissioned jointly by the Departments of Health and Children and Finance following on from a Government decision in 1999. The O'Shea report was formally launched on 25 June 2003 at a joint press conference with the Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Deputy Coughlan. She launched the Mercer report on the future financing of long-term care in Ireland at the joint press conference. Following on from the publication of the O'Shea and Mercer reports, it was agreed that a working group should be established by my Department to review the operation of the nursing home subvention scheme.
I wish to advise the Deputy that the inaugural meeting of the working group took place in early December. One of the items for discussion by the working group at its first meeting was to agree terms of reference for the review. However, due to the complex nature of the regulations and the variety of stakeholders involved, it was not possible to finalise agreement on the terms of reference. It was decided that each member would deliberate over the terms and that they would be the subject of further discussions. It is therefore not possible at this time to provide them to the Deputy. I will, however, ensure that the terms of reference are forwarded to the Deputy as soon as they are agreed by the working group. The timeframe for the review will also be the subject of discussion by the working group.