A report by the health watchdog has called for the establishment of an independent national organisation to oversee patient safety — at odds with the Government’s plan for an in-house agency.
The Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) said the fact that no overarching agency existed at national level meant the opportunity for shared learning when mistakes were made was largely lost, with no pooling of risk information to improve patient safety.
Dr Kevin O’Carroll, acting director of health information with Hiqa, said safe and reliable health and social care “depends on access to, and use of, good quality information”.
However, patient safety intelligence is currently gathered by numerous agencies and not always shared, representing “a lost opportunity to provide early warnings of potential patient safety risks”.
The call for a single independent agency is the key recommendation in Hiqa’s report ‘Recommendations on the coordination of patient safety intelligence in Ireland’, published yesterday.
While previous health minister, James Reilly, had promised an independent patient safety agency, ultimately underpinned by legislation, the current health minister Leo Varadkar, announced last November his plans were for a National Patient Safety Office within the Department of Health.
Reacting to the report last night, Mr Varadkar said that he would consider it in detail “and issue a reasoned response in the coming weeks”.
“As announced in the Patient Safety Package last November, I have decided to appoint a national patient safety director within my department reporting directly to me, as opposed to a separate organisation reporting to its own board.
“Hiqa seems to be proposing a hybrid organisation reporting directly to me without a board. That will now be teased out in further planning,” Mr Varadkar said.
A spokesperson for Patient Focus said there was a requirement for “a dedicated agency for patient safety with statutory powers”, that the current system was a “mish-mash”, and policies were “not consistently followed”.
The Patients Association also welcomed the call for an independent patient safety body.
Hiqa’s recommendations follow public concern about the safety of Irish maternity services and were informed by a comprehensive review of patient safety intelligence systems in operation nationally and internationally
The report calls for the roll-out of the national incident management system so that it becomes the only incident information management system, replacing the HSE’s own system currently in use. It also calls for “an effective information communications technology infrastructure”.
A separate Hiqa report published yesterday, said the current infrastructure was “highly fragmented with major gaps and silos of information which prevent the safe, effective, transfer of information”.
Other recommendations include a call for the introduction, in a timely manner, of legislation to support open disclosure.
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