The issue of a service level agreement for the supply of contract beds was raised by representatives of the Irish Nursing Homes Organisation, INHO, at a meeting with me in February 2005. The Department pursued this issue with the HSE and was informed that the INHO had been in discussion with the former Eastern Regional Health Authority for some time on the development of service level agreements in the eastern region. The HSE has confirmed a response has issued to the INHO enclosing a draft service level agreement and addressing the issues raised in this connection by the organisation. The INHO has acknowledged receipt of this response and has undertaken to revert to the HSE on the matter.
The staff levels for nursing homes are set out in the Nursing Homes Regulations 1993. However, having regard to the level of public concern about the registration and inspection of the nursing home sector, it is imperative immediate action is taken to ensure current systems and processes are as robust as they can be within the context of the current regulations. Responsibility for the inspection and registration of the nursing home sector was assigned to the HSE national care group manager, older people's services, from 15 June 2005. Steps are being taken to evaluate current processes and to agree and oversee the implementation of a national standardised inspection process. A progress report on this review will be available by 5 September 2005. Recommendations arising from this process in respect of the amendment of legislation or regulation will be addressed in consultation with the Department of Health and Children.
The social services inspectorate was established in April 1999, initially on an administrative basis. Regulations to establish the inspectorate on a statutory basis and legislation to extend its remit will be introduced in both Houses later this year. The inspectorate will be charged with the inspection of the public and private nursing home sectors and with the setting of standards against which these homes will be inspected. Establishing the inspectorate on a statutory basis will strengthen its role and will provide it with the necessary independence in the performance of its functions. It will also serve to increase public confidence in State and voluntary social services. Work is in progress in the Department to allow the necessary legislative requirements to be put in place as soon as possible.