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Patient Safety and Advocacy Policy

Published: 4 July 2019
From: Department of Health

Patient Safety Complaints and Advocacy Policy

The Department of Health is developing a Patient Safety Complaints and Advocacy Policy. The primary aim of the policy is to provide a framework for Ireland’s healthcare services to support the development and improvement of healthcare complaint handling and the commencement and provision of an independent patient safety complaints advocacy service.

Development of a Patient Safety Complaints and Advocacy Policy

Models of patient advocacy – Evidence brief – April 2016

Health Research Board – Codes of Practice for Patient Safety Healthcare Complaints Advocacy – Evidence Brief

Report of the Consultation for the Patient Safety Complaints and Advocacy Policy

This consultation was undertaken to inform the development of a new policy for Patient Safety Complaints and Advocacy and over 170 responses were received.

Some key issues which emerged are:

  • patient centredness
  • efficiency and responsiveness
  • capacity and capability
  • learning for better outcomes

This document will be a key element in the development of a new Patient Safety Complaints and Advocacy Policy.

Patient Advocacy Service

The Minister for Health awarded the contract for the new independent Patient Advocacy Service in December 2018. This service will support those wishing to make a complaint about their experience of the public health service; and provide support to patients who may have been affected by a patient safety incident.

Following a competitive tendering process, the contract to operate the new service was awarded to the National Advocacy Service for People with Disabilities. It is anticipated that the service will become operational in the second half of 2019.

The advocates engaged by the service will adhere to the Competency Framework for Patient Safety and Complaint Advocacy Services and will be required to enrol on and complete the training programme run in 2019 by the Open Training College on behalf of the Department of Health.

Read more in the press release.

A Code of Conduct for Health and Social Service Providers

The primary objective of the Code is to ensure the safety of those that access our services, while striving to ensure that the quality of these services is always improving. The Code recognises that healthcare staff work in a high-risk environment involving a complex set of interactions between individuals, teams, organisations and technologies every day and that, to achieve this objective, they must be supported in doing so.

The Code will establish a single, shared ethos in health and social services provided publicly or privately, in any setting; hospital, mental health facility, community or home.

Read the Code of Conduct.

Cosmetic Surgery

Following concerns expressed in relation to the safety and quality of surgical cosmetic procedures in Ireland, the Office of the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) has prepared, in collaboration the Irish Association of Plastic Surgeons (IAPS) a short guideline containing a number of recommendations for individuals who may be considering surgical cosmetic procedures. This updates previous guidance from the CMO issued in November 2010 to Cosmetic Surgery Tourists.

Dr Tony Holohan, CMO, said:

“I would like to thank the Irish Association of Plastic Surgeons and in particular Dr. Patricia Eadie, President of the Association for their assistance and support in compiling this extremely informative and helpful guideline which, I believe, affords prospective patients with very useful and practical advice when considering whether or not to undergo surgical cosmetic procedures."
“Recent controversy surrounding the PIP breast implant issue in Ireland has highlighted the potential problems which can occur in surgical cosmetic procedures. The Minister requested that better information be put in place for people who are planning to undergo cosmetic surgery in this country. Both Dr. Eadie and I are satisfied that this joint guideline goes a long way towards achieving this goal."

Read the CMO's recommendations for patients considering surgical cosmetic procedures.

Licensing of healthcare providers

The department has prepared legislative proposals for a mandatory licensing system for public and private hospitals and other providers of high risk healthcare activities. It is designed to improve patient safety by ensuring that providers do not operate below core standards, which are applied in a consistent and systematic way.

The general scheme of the Patient Safety (Licensing) Bill, was approved by Government in December 2017 and referred to the Oireachtas. It is intended that this Bill will ensure the need for all hospitals to have strong clinical governance and patient safety operating frameworks in place in order to be granted and maintain a licence to provide health services.

General Scheme of the Patient Safety (Licensing) Bill


General Scheme of Health Information and Patient Safety Bill


Revised General Scheme of the Health Information and Patient Safety Bill, Regulatory Impact Analysis


Open Disclosure

Open Disclosure is an open and consistent approach to communicating with patients and their families when things go wrong in healthcare. This includes expressing regret for what has happened, keeping the patient informed, providing feedback on investigations and the steps taken to prevent a recurrence of the adverse event. Open Disclosure is important for building patient and public trust in the health system.

The purposes of Open Disclosure overall are to:

  • ensure that patients are informed when adverse events happen as soon as is practicable
  • assist in supporting appropriate patient care
  • increase trust between patients and their clinicians
  • support staff in managing adverse events
  • improve patient safety and quality of care through organisational learning

Open Disclosure can be viewed as an integral element of patient safety incident management and it is government policy that a system of open disclosure is in place and supported across the health system.

The HSE Open Disclosure Policy and Medical Practitioners Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics sets out clear requirements for open disclosure.

Read more about open disclosure.

Independent Patient Safety Council

The Independent Patient Safety Council was appointed by the Minister for Health, Simon Harris and held its inaugural meeting on 27th January 2020. The Council has been appointed to provide advice and guidance to the Minister for Health from a broad range of perspectives on the development of patient safety policy.

They will initially provide advice and guidance to the Department of Health for the development of an Open Disclosure Framework to assist organisations and clinicians to apply the principles of open disclosure to communicate with patients when healthcare does not go to plan.

Read more about The Independent Patient Safety Council

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