'Make failure to admit hospital blunder a crime'
The Government needs to urgently introduce laws for a "duty of candour", making it a crime if doctors and other staff do not "come clean at the very beginning" when mistakes have been made in patient care, an Oireachtas committee report has urged.
It said the UK legislated for a duty of candour in November 2014 and it means that a "failure to be candid" is a criminal offence.
The report on the cost of medical indemnity insurance by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children said the evidence is that if patients are dealt with fairly and honestly, the number of clinical negligence claims is reduced.
Some hospital consultants have seen a massive rise in indemnity insurance to cover them against claims in private practice, making such practice not viable.
It ranges from €77,000 a year for a general surgeon to €104,000 for a neurosurgeon. An obstetrician could pay €337,000.
It means there will be a smaller choice of private consultants for insured patients.
It said that currently doctors in the same specialities were all paying the same premiums but there should be a discount if a doctor had a lower number of claims brought against them.
The payouts for private consultants involved in compensation claims are subsidised after a certain level by the State.
The report highlighted how around 2,840 claims arising out of alleged negligence are being handled by the State Claims Agency. These have a contingent liability of around €1.5bn.
The average cost of personal injury claims resolved last year was €140,000, compared with €67,000 in 2008.
Some hospitals are putting patients under undue hardship by defending cases for years before reaching a settlement in the days leading up to a court appearance.