Minister Plans to Enforce Medical Negligence Open Disclosure Policy

Health Minister Simon Harris has announced that he is to push forward with legislation to enforce a medical negligence open disclosure policy.

The Health Minister´s intentions to push forward with legislation to enforce a medical negligence open disclosure policy were revealed in an address to delegates at the State Claims Agency´s first annual “Quality, Patient Safety & Clinical Risk Conference” at Dublin Castle on Monday.

Mr Harris said that the establishment of a new National Patient Safety Office would “lead a program of significant patient safety measures” that included a review of how adverse medical events are disclosed to patients and their families and the process for claiming medical negligence compensation.

The National Patient Safety Office will be led by a team of experts under the auspices of the Department of Justice and Equality. Its roles include:

  • Setting up a national patient advocacy service.
  • Introducing a patient safety surveillance system.
  • Establishing a national advisory council for patient safety.

The National Patient Safety Office will also be responsible for accelerating the progress of the Health Information and Patient Safety Bill – although enactment of the bill may not be possible until the EU has concluded its work on revised European-wide data protection standards.

This is because the Health Information and Patient Safety Bill contains measures to protect patients´ private healthcare information while aiming to create a national network of healthcare data to improve the provision and management of healthcare services throughout Ireland.

The news that the Health Minister at least intends to enforce a medical negligence open disclosure policy will be welcomed by legal figures and patient safety experts who have campaigned for many years for a legal duty of candour to be introduced.

Some have claimed that the HSE´s 2013 national guidelines for open disclosure have been widely ignored since their publication, and that former Health Minister Leo Varadkar missed an opportunity to enforce a medical negligence open disclosure policy in the Civil Liberty (Amendment) Bill 2015.