Mandatory open disclosure law clears Oireachtas

Mandatory open disclosure law clears Oireachtas

Stephen Donnelly

Legislation providing for the mandatory open disclosure of serious patient safety incidents has completed all stages in the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Once commenced, the Patient Safety (Notifiable Incidents and Open Disclosure) Bill 2019 will require a list of specific serious patient safety incidents to be disclosed to patients and/or their families.

The government says this will ensure that patients and their families have access to comprehensive and timely information, including an apology where appropriate, in relation to serious patient safety incidents.

A second core purpose of the legislation is to enable national learning from these serious patient safety incidents and to support health service-wide improvements so that harm to other patients can be prevented.

This will be achieved through the obligation on health service providers to report notifiable incidents to the relevant regulatory body.

The bill also provides for the expansion of the Health Information and Quality Authority’s (HIQA) remit into private hospital services. This will allow HIQA to set standards for the operation of private hospitals, to monitor compliance with them and to undertake inspections as required.

In addition, the bill provides for the mandatory open disclosure of a patient-requested review of a cancer screening.

Known in the bill as a “Part 5 review”, a patient-requested review which is carried out by the cancer screening services currently operating, that is CervicalCheck, BreastCheck and Bowel Screen, will be subject to mandatory open disclosure ensuring patients have access to comprehensive and timely information.

The bill also gives the Chief Inspector of Social Services a discretionary power to carry out a review of serious patient safety incidents in nursing homes.

Commenting on the passing of the legislation, Health minister Stephen Donnelly said: “The introduction of mandatory open disclosure of notifiable incidents in this bill is a watershed moment for patient safety in our health services.

“It will contribute to embedding a culture where clinicians, and the health service as a whole, engage openly, transparently and compassionately with patients and their families when things go wrong with the care they receive.

“This new legislation seeks to support a just culture in our health services, which is focused on openness, learning and improvement rather than blame.

“In many situations where patients are harmed, the error or mistake occurred because systems were not in place to support the healthcare professional or team in identifying and avoiding that error.

“Creating a culture of open disclosure and learning from the things that go wrong is the bedrock of making services safer.”

He added: “While the focus of this Bill is much wider than cancer screening services, it is absolutely correct that the Bill has been informed by CervicalCheck and from the women and men who stood up and made their voices heard.

“The inclusion of the new ‘Part 5 review’ will enshrine in law for the first time, the right of patients to mandatory open disclosure of all information regarding a patient-requested review of their cancer screening.”

The bill will now go to the president before being signed into law.

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