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New National Patient Safety Office Announced by Health Minister

The Minister for Health has announced that the new National Patient Safety Office at a patient safety conference this week in Dublin.

The soon-to-be established National Patient Safety Office, announced by the Health Minister Simin Harris, will report to the Department of Justice and Equality. The minister announced the creation of the new organisation whilst speaking at a patient safety conference in Dublin. He further commented that the organisation will “lead a program of significant patient safety measures”, and should revolutionise the way in which medical negligence claims are made in Ireland.

In order to achieve its goals, the office will establish a patient advocacy service for patients across Ireland. It will work to create a new patient advisory council and implement the use of a patient safety surveillance system. It will also review the existing procedures for claiming medical negligence compensation and their efficacy in the Irish legal system.

This review was organised to help progress the Health Information and Patient Safety Bill. This proposes to allow patients and their families to disclose adverse medical events they have endured while in the care of medical professionals in Ireland. Not all Irish hospitals have adopted the guidelines released by the HSE in 2013 regarding open disclosure, and as such legal cases can vary significantly depending on which hospital the claim is made against.

It has been the longtime goal of many patient rights organisations to lobbying successive Ministers for Health for such a review. They claimed that – without that statutory duty of candour – any new medical negligence claims are impossible. Leo Varadkar, former Minister for Health, has come under heavy criticism from these groups for failing to enforce open disclosure in 2015’s Civil Liberty (Amendment) Bill.

The Health Information and Patient Safety Bill also proposes to end the unauthorised disclosure of health information, and to extend the Health Information and Quality Authority’s (HIQA) hold over private healthcare providers. They further want to see novel technologies used to record and exchange health data.  However, until the EU revises its data protection regulations, none of these innovations are likely to be enforced.

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