Wednesday 17 January 2018

Varadkar: patient safety is to get more HSE attention

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar
Minister for Health Leo Varadkar

Eilish O’Regan

A patient advocacy group to help families who have suffered injury or death to secure answers from the health service will be set up by next May, Health Minister Leo Varadkar has promised.

The agency was called for as part of the recent report of the Hiqa investigation into standards of care in Portlaoise Hospital. He said it is not yet decided if it will be on a statutory basis.

Referring to revelations in the Irish Independent earlier this week, showing he was sent an internal memo at the Department of Health warning about the HSE’s failure to prioritise patient safety, he said there has been a “step change” since then.

“That correspondence relates to before Christmas,” he said. “Since then we have had the Hiqa report on Portloaise. I have seen a noticeable improvement in the HSE on patient safety since and on the giving of information.

“I think we need to step up the patient unit in our own Department of Health. It is a small unit working with the Chief Medical Officer at the moment. I think it needs a stronger patient safety function.”

Mr Varadkar added: “The HSE is the provider. It has competing priorities, but patient safety has to be there too.”

The minister was speaking at the launch of the first Pact for Public Safety, which sets out 10 key priorities for health authorities – including providing patients with full access to records. It is supported by 23 groups, including the Irish Patients’ Association.

Mr Varadkar said new legislation will give people automatic rights to their own medical records.

Speaking at the launch, Ombudsman, Peter Tyndall, said his office is too often told by a public body that lessons have been learned in relation to a particular incident. But, nine months later, he can end up getting the same complaint again.

From now on he is going to pursue bodies to find out how they are implementing action plans which they are given following his investigations. The follow up will aim to find out if lessons are learned.

Irish Independent

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