Health Minister Simon Harris has said he is going to introduce legislation to enforce the HSE´s guidelines for open disclosure in medical negligence cases.
In November 2013, the Health Service Executive (HSE) and State Claims Agency launched a nationwide program of open disclosure in medical negligence cases to support an “open, timely and consistent approach to communicating when things go wrong in healthcare”.
Although guidelines were published to support the policy of open disclosure in medical negligence cases, critics have claimed that the policy has not been consistently applied, and that a legal duty of candour in Ireland is required to overcome the “culture” of keeping quiet when mistakes are made.
In response to those critics, Health Minister Simon Harris has committed to introduce legislation to enforce the HSE´s guidelines as part of a series of measures intended to improve patient safety in Ireland.
Mr Harris was speaking at the State Claims Agency´s first annual “Quality, Patient Safety & Clinical Risk Conference” at Dublin Castle when he announced a “program of significant patient safety measures” that would be overseen by a new National Patient Safety Office.
According to Mr Harris, the new department will be responsible for:
- Establishing and supporting a nationwide patient advocacy service.
- Implementing a patient safety surveillance system.
- Setting up a national advisory council for patient safety.
Working in conjunction with the Department of Justice and Equality, the National Patient Safety Office will also be responsible for accelerating the Health Information and Patient Safety Bill – a bill creating a national healthcare database to improve the provision and management of healthcare services throughout Ireland.
Due to the bill containing measures to protect patients´ private healthcare information, the proposals are unlikely to be enacted until after the European Union has issued revised data protection standards. However, the fact that Mr Harris has acknowledged the importance of open disclosure in medical negligence cases will please many patient healthcare advocates who believe former Health Minister Leo Varadkar sidestepped the opportunity to introduce appropriate legislation in the Civil Liberty (Amendment) Bill 2015.