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New Legislation to be Made to Deal with Medical Negligence Claims in Ireland

Health Minister Simon Harris has announced the foundation of a new office which will create legislation to change the way medical negligence claims are made in Ireland.

The Health Minister´s intentions to establish a new National Patient Safety Office were announced at the State Claims Agency´s first annual “Quality, Patient Safety & Clinical Risk Conference” at Dublin Castle on Monday.  The minister hopes that this will help with current legislation, and will advance further to enforce a medical negligence open disclosure policy.

At the conference, Mr Harris said that the new office would “lead a program of significant patient safety measures”. He stated that the hoped the office would review how adverse medical events are disclosed to patients and their families and the process for claiming medical negligence compensation in Ireland.

The National Patient Safety Office will be led by a team of experts, and would report directly to the Department of Justice and Equality. Mr Harris outlined the roles of the new office, which include: setting up a national patient advocacy service, introducing a patient safety surveillance system, and establishing a national advisory council for patient safety. These will streamline the procedure for making medical negligence claims in Ireland.

The National Patient Safety Office will also be responsible for accelerating the progress of the Health Information and Patient Safety Bill. However, until the EU has finished its own work on its review of European-wide data protection standards, enactment of the bill may not be possible.

The conflict between the Health Information and Patient Safety Bill and the EU review is due to the bill containing measures to protect patients´ private healthcare information while simultaneously aiming to create a national network of healthcare data. This databank of health information will be used by experts to improve the provision and management of healthcare services throughout Ireland.

The Health Minister also stated that he intends to enforce a medical negligence open disclosure policy. Prominent legal figures and patient safety experts have lobbied the government for many years for a legal duty of candour to be introduced to improve the manner in which legal proceedings are processed in Ireland.

Some have claimed that the HSE´s 2013 national guidelines for open disclosure have been largely unacknowledged, as there still exist many hospitals who have not adopted the policies. They further claim that former Health Minister Leo Varadkar missed an opportunity to enforce a medical negligence open disclosure policy in the Civil Liberty (Amendment) Bill 2015.

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