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New plan to boost safety for patients


Leo Varadkar, Minister For Health

Leo Varadkar, Minister For Health

Leo Varadkar, Minister For Health

A package of patient safety measures, including a new advisory council, comprising healthcare and patient representatives, is being unveiled by Health Minister Leo Varadkar today.

The measures will also include a pledge to set up the long-promised national patient advocacy service for patients with complaints who need help to overcome HSE bureaucracy.

Mr Varadkar is launching a new patient experience survey to be carried out annually, allowing for international comparisons to be made.

The advisory council for patient safety will have an independent chair with members selected through public invitation.

It will give advice on patient safety, publish reports and monitor data to act as an "early warning".

It follows ongoing concerns about lapses in patient safety, highlighted in reports such as the Health Information and Quality (Hiqa) investigation of Portlaoise Hospital.

The move comes as a new report by the watchdog the Mental Health Commission reveals today that the use of seclusion, physical restraint and electric shock treatment is on the rise for psychiatric patients for the first time in years.

It shows use of seclusion rose for the first time in six years by 12pc.

The use of physical restraint rose 8pc in 2012.

The watchdog also expressed concern at the 14pc rise in electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), where one or more of the sessions were given to a patient without their consent.

A programme can involve up to 12 separate treatments. There were 46 programmes of ECT over the course of 2013, where one or more was administered without consent - a rise from 27 in 2012.

Mental Health Commission Chair John Saunders said: "Over the past number of years we have seen a steady reduction in the use of practices such as seclusion and restraint.

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"However, the increase in their use during 2013 is very worrying. I would urge those providing mental health services to study the rules and codes of practices in these areas."


Meanwhile, a new Hiqa report has again condemned the physical conditions of an old HSE-run nursing home.

Middleton Community Hospital, dating from 1841, which had an unannounced visit in July and is home to 48 elderly people, has just one shower and bath for every 26 residents.

Female residents who needed a bath had to go to a neighbouring male ward and the same arrangement was in place for men who needed a shower in the female area.

Also, some of the toilets were very narrow and could not be used by people in wheelchairs or those with high dependency needs.

The multi-occupancy bedrooms impacted negatively on residents, who were not able to undertake personal activities in private or meet visitors there.

Inspectors had previously set out an action plan but there was no evidence of funded, costed, specific time-bound plans for the necessary alterations.

It was announced this week that it would take until 2021 to upgrade or close similar homes.

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