The Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, is to revisit a number of complaints about the rights of medical card holders to inpatient services in public institutions other than public nursing homes.

This follows a ruling yesterday by the Supreme Court which found that the retrospective provisions of the Health Amendment Bill are unconstitutional.

The provisions would have prevented those who had charges for residential care unlawfully deducted going back over a 30-year period, from suing the State.

The complaints which the Ombudsman will revisit were held in suspense pending the Supreme Court judgement, and relate to institutions for the mentally ill and community hospitals.

Ms O'Reilly has also said that she will be asking the Department of Health to revisit the issue of medical card holders who could not be provided with a bed in a public institution due to bed shortages, and who were directed by the health boards towards private care.

Health budget will not be affected

Meanwhile, the Tánaiste and Minister for Health, Mary Harney, has promised that the current health budget will not be affected by the repayment of illegal nursing home charges.

The State will now have to compensate those who were illegally charged in nursing homes at a cost of at least €500 million, and possibly much more.

But Ms Harney told the Dáil that new legislation will be brought in soon to make such charges in the future.

The Tánaiste confirmed that the Government would have to introduce a Supplementary Estimate later in the year to provide the money, as taking it from the existing health budget would cause cutbacks in services.

Ms Harney also said new legislation to allow the Government to charge nursing home residents would be brought in as a matter of urgency, as the health service was losing €2.5 million per week as long as it was not in place.