New Patient Rights Organisation Announced by Minister

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Mr Simon Harris, current Minister of Health, has announced a new National Patient Safety Office will be established, and among its first actions it will conduct a review of the medical negligence compensation claim procedures.

The announcement was made at a patient safety conference in Dublin. The Minister for Health announced the new National Patient Safety Office will report to the Department of Justice and Equality, and was established to “lead a program of significant patient safety measures”.

The new office, set up to help secure more rights for patients across Ireland, will establish a nationwide patient advocacy service, set up a new patient advisory council and also establish a patient safety surveillance system. However, it will also conduct a much-needed review of the processes required to claim for medical negligence compensation in Ireland.

The proposed Health Information and Patient Safety Bill will be greatly aided by this review. It outlines procedures that can be established to allow patients and their families to disclose adverse medical events.Such measures have been discussed before: the HSE had established guidelines for this open disclosure in 2013, though they are not actually being practiced in Irish healthcare facilities.

Many patient advocacy groups have been campaigning for such change for many years, and greatly welcome the news of the review. The patient representatives claim that without a statutory duty of candour, any new medical negligence claims are “unworkable”. The former Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, is heavily criticised by these groups for his failure to enforce open disclosure in 2015’s Civil Liberty (Amendment) Bill.

The new Health Information and Patient Safety Bill has many other goals to help bolster patient safety and privacy; it hopes to halt the unauthorised disclosure of health information, to establish the use of new medical technologies to safely exchange health data and to extend the Health Information and Quality Authority’s (HIQA) authority over private healthcare providers. However, the European Union is currently reviewing its data protection laws, and until that is completed these new measures will not be enacted.