The Minister must make the enactment of this Bill a priority

The government must quickly move to ensure that a policy of open disclosure becomes mandatory within the health service, according to Social Democrats Health Spokesperson Róisín Shortall.

Deputy Shortall was commenting after the publication of the final report of Dr. Gabriel Scally into the implementation of the recommendations of his 2018 scoping inquiry.

“There has been welcome reform of the CervicalCheck screening programme since Dr. Scally published his initial report four years ago. However, one of the most important – and contentious – recommendations remains outstanding, open disclosure.

“Regrettably, the progress of the Patient Safety (Notifiable Patient Safety Incidents) Bill – which is intended to make open disclosure mandatory rather than discretionary – through the Oireachtas has been glacial.

“Of concern also, is the fact that Dr Scally, in his report, states that the Bill, in its current guise, will “not move the system forward to the extent needed”. The Health Committee has already discussed the need for amendments to be tabled to the Bill, to ensure that failings, like those identified in CervicalCheck, are notified to patients. The Minister should move quickly to introduce those amendments.

“In the Dáil last week, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly assured the House that work on the Patient Safety Bill would be completed by Christmas. Given this is just a few short weeks away, and we have yet to see any of the forthcoming amendments, questions must now be asked about that commitment.

“The Minister must make the enactment of this Bill a priority and ensure its passage through the Dáil and the Seanad before Christmas. This legislation is something that Vicky Phelan spent the last four years of her life trying to progress and we owe it to her, and her incredible advocacy, to complete that work.

“A related issue is the lack of a clinical complaints system within the health service. In fact, Dr Scally makes the point that clinical complaints, under the Health Act 2004, are legally prohibited. This must also change as we move towards a more open and transparent system of healthcare, in which a duty of candour is prioritised.

“Finally, Dr Scally also notes that Medical Council guidelines, in relation to a duty of candour, are wholly inadequate. As it stands, under those guidelines, a duty of candour remains discretionary when it should be absolute. I would echo Dr Scally’s calls for the Medical Council to change its guidelines in line with his recommendations.

“Given this is Dr. Scally’s final report, I would like to take this opportunity to thanks him for the diligence, expertise and empathy his has shown throughout this process. Dr Scally has been a welcome voice of erudition and compassion and his work will ensure that women in Ireland have a much improved screening service.”

23 November, 2022


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