New Patient Safety Reforms Package Announced

A major package of patient safety reforms have been announced by the Minister for Health Leo Varadkar.

The new measures include plans to simplify the complaints procedure, enhance the powers of the Ombudsman and HIQA, and a tranche of patient safety legislation. In addition, he is collaborating with Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Justice and Equality on measures to reduce the time taken for a legal action to be resolved and to reform methods of compensation payments.

The measures also include plans for an annual national patient experience survey, the creation of a National Patient Safety Office and a patient advocacy service to provide advice and detect worrying patient safety trends in healthcare.

The package was agreed at Cabinet this week and formally announced by the Minister at the Fifth National Patient Safety Conference in the Aviva Stadium today.

Minister Varadkar said: "Patient safety should be at the heart of everything we do as a health service. Although progress has been made in some areas, there have been some very high-profile and tragic exceptions which have damaged public confidence in the health service. That's why we have prepared the most wide-ranging package of patient safety measures in Irish history.

"For patients and their relatives, the experience of making a complaint can be bewildering. We will simplify the complaints process and look to extend the powers of the Ombudsman to cover clinical issues. The annual patient experience survey will also give us first-hand feedback. We can learn a lot by listening to patients and knowing more about how they rate individual hospitals or services. A package of legal reforms will reduce the length of court cases, while plaintiffs will be entitled to regular index-linked compensation payments instead of a lump sum. Open Disclosure, where healthcare professionals are open and transparent with a patient following an adverse incident, will be supported through legislation. The National Patient Safety Office will help to drive the overall patient safety agenda. All these initiatives should put the patient first, improve their experience of the health service, reduce harm and reduce costs, and ultimately save lives."

The general patient safety measures include:

• Simplify the complaints process and look to extending the remit of the Ombudsman across the health service in consultation with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and other interested parties;

• Conduct a National Patient Experience Survey across all hospitals. This survey will be conducted annually using recognised guidelines to allow international comparisons;

• The National Healthcare Quality Reporting System, first published in 2015, will continue to be published annually;

• Run ongoing Patient Safety Campaigns with defined safety targets such as reducing medication errors;

• Set up a National Patient Safety Office in the Department of Health to report directly to the Minister, oversee the programme of patient safety measures and advise the HSE, HIQA and health professional regulatory bodies on patient safety issues;

• The Patient Safety Office will be guided by an independent Advisory Council, established through public invitation from the Public Appointments Service. This will advise the Office, publish independent patient safety reports prompted by safety information, and act as an early-warning mechanism;

• Set up an independent National Patient Advocacy Service as recommended in the HIQA Portlaoise Report to provide advice and information directly to patients;

• Implement the Code of Conduct for Health & Social Care Providers;

• A National Patient Safety Surveillance System will collate data from across the health service to help the HSE to monitor patient safety, and to guide Government health policy.

There is also a package of patient safety legislation aimed at patients including:

• The Health Information & Patient Safety Bill, the general scheme of which was published today, will make it mandatory to report events which result in death or serious harm;

• Under this Bill HIQA's remit on setting standards, monitoring compliance with standards and carrying out investigations will be extended to private operators, including private hospitals, and high risk activities in cosmetic surgery clinics;

• Periodic Payment Orders will allow people who experience serious injury during healthcare to receive the cost of future care in the form of index-linked payments every few years, instead of the current system of lump-sum awards (through Department of Justice and Equality legislation);

• Open Disclosure will be supported through legislation to support the system currently in operation in the health service (again through the Periodic Payment Orders legislation);

• Pre-Action Protocols will reduce the length of time required to complete legal proceedings and the cost involved, and reduce the stress for plaintiffs and their families (through a Bill from the Department of Justice & Equality);

• The enactment of the Medical Practitioners Bill in the coming months to require that all doctors who practise medicine must provide evidence that they have adequate indemnity cover when they register with the Medical Council or on annual retention of registration;

• Patients will have a right to transfer their medical records when they change GP or health professional;

• It will be a criminal offence for those involved in healthcare to buy or sell personal health information;

• A Patient Safety Licensing Bill is being developed to introduce a formal licensing regime for public and private healthcare providers.


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