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Acts on licensing and disclosure promised

07 Oct 2016

The National Patient Safety Office will focus on new legislation, setting up a national patient advocacy service and a patient safety surveillance system, the Minister for Health told the IHCA annual conference last weekend.

“Achieving patient safety and quality requires access to leadership, governance and clinical commitment, at national, regional and local service delivery level,” Minister Simon Harris told the conference in Kilkenny.

The National Patient Safety Office, a key part of planning for high-quality healthcare, would be established within the Department of Health in 2016, the Minister told consultants.

Through legislation, it was planned to “progress licensing of public and private hospitals”, with a health information and patient safety Bill being brought forward. Legislation would also be published this year to underpin open disclosure. “It is not acceptable that we drag people through the courts system,” said Minister Harris.

This autumn, the Tánaiste would advance the concept of periodic payments through legislation, and pre-action protocols would also be put in place, along with a new mediation Bill. “We need to end the adversarial system, in terms of how the State interacts with a patient at a time of significant grief. We also need to support clinicians who want to share information with patients and their families in a safe environment,” said Minister Harris.

He said the Government had committed to capping the rising costs of clinical claims, and an expert group would be established to examine the issue in coming weeks. This group would be tasked with reporting within six months on options for reforming the law of tort and the current claims process.

“We want to ensure that patients who have been damaged are properly compensated,” said Minister Harris. “We want to ensure that funds for legal costs and awards are spent effectively. We need a system in place that looks after the patient and not the legal system.”

Legal advice has been sought by the Government on the possibility of broadening the Clinical Indemnity Scheme (CIS) and new access for consultants to the CIS for work they currently do is under active consideration. However, competition law issues may also arise.

A detailed review in relation to how medical indemnity caps works from the State’s perspective was also being carried out, the Minister revealed.

Gary Culliton

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Irish Medical Times