Saturday 25 November 2017

Ex-HSE staff to be excluded from health probes

Fine Gael TD John Deasy
Fine Gael TD John Deasy
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The HSE is to stop appointing former staff members to sensitive investigations into alleged failings in the health service.

A national independent review panel is to be set up to deal with serious cases involving people in HSE care.

The move comes on the back of a report by the Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) which recommended that former HSE staff should not be appointed to investigations or reviews of serious incidents in the health service.

The practice has proved controversial, especially in the case of a review into allegations that dozens of children were sexually abused in a foster home in the south east over two decades.

While health board officials were informed of allegations in the 1990s, the foster home remained in operation for some time afterwards and children continued to live there.

Fine Gael TD John Deasy told the PAC he believed a clique of HSE managers had swept the claims under the carpet.

Two reviews commissioned by the HSE, including one involving a team of former health service personnel, have yet to be published despite being completed.

Costs associated with both reviews have topped €500,000 but the findings have been withheld by the HSE.

Following the publication of the PAC report, Junior Health Minister Kathleen Lynch appointed Conor Dignam SC to review the process used by the HSE to appoint both review teams and the adequacy of the approach taken in conducting those exercises.

She also sought proposals for a "more independent" investigation process in future.

Now, under proposals developed by the HSE, an independent panel will be used to investigate cases involving unexplained deaths or serious harm in care. It will also be called in to look into serious allegations of sexual or physical abuse by a carer, and serious allegations of poor care.

An independent chairperson will be chosen by the Public Appointments Service and is "expected to be of high public standing, with significant knowledge of health and social care services". The proposals are being considered by the Department of Health.

Mr Deasy welcomed the move and said it needed to be implemented immediately.

"For the families of the children involved there will be some sense of relief that policy change has resulted from the issues that have affected them," he said.

Irish Independent

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