Monday 16 December 2019

PAC criticises 'failure to learn' from €2bn in clinical negligence claims

Warning: PAC chairman Seán Fleming said failure to incorporate learnings would cause claims to rise even higher. Photo: Tom Burke
Warning: PAC chairman Seán Fleming said failure to incorporate learnings would cause claims to rise even higher. Photo: Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The Dáil's spending watchdog has criticised a failure to learn from clinical negligence claims against the State amid "eye-watering" estimated liabilities of €2.3bn.

The criticism is contained in the latest report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

PAC chairman Seán Fleming said the number and cost of claims against the State continues to escalate, particularly those arising from clinical negligence. He said there is "no evidence of a functioning systems-wide approach in the [HSE] to incorporate learnings from associated incidents across the entire health sector." The Fianna Fáil TD said the PAC report outlines how this is "likely to contribute to the increase of such claims".

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said the sums involved were "eye-watering", and the policy of open disclosure by health service staff was "essential if we're going to address that liability". The PAC recommends that the HSE, the State Claims Agency and Department of Health "puts in place a formal system to incorporate learnings from incidents of clinical negligence".

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In other findings, the PAC said the financial management of the HSE and oversight provided by the Department of Health was "unsatisfactory" and "does not demonstrate good... financial control".

The health service needs an extra €338m in funding this year. The PAC acknowledges efforts to implement new controls on health spending.

Separately, the report outlined how the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund lost €721,000 due to "unintended currency exposure as a result of human error".

The PAC recommended that the NTMA examines operations on a regular basis to ensure such errors don't happen again.

Elsewhere, the report raises concern over the refusal by the Department of Finance to release details of payments to individual barristers providing services in relation to the Ireland Apple Escrow Fund.

The State has placed more than €14bn in escrow while legal challenges against the European Commission's 2016 Apple tax ruling proceed. The department argued that it was not possible to release the payment details as it would likely breach data protection laws. The PAC says mechanisms should be put in place to ensure transparency for the spending of all public money, notwithstanding the requirements of GDPR.

The PAC report said it is "unacceptable" that 6,000 children had not been allocated a social worker by Tusla even though the Department of Children surrendered €58.7m to the Exchequer in 2017.

Irish Independent

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