HSE may have to appoint patient advocate to board

The HSE may be forced to appoint a patient advocate to its returned HSE board as part of strict new accountability and transparency measures set to be passed by the Government.

Health Minister Simon Harris will tell Cabinet today he wants to remain open to the patient advocate role plan during a meeting where he will say the new board must have “responsibility for assessing the chief executive’s performance”.

In a plan to be discussed during a Cabinet meeting which will also see ministers agree new powers allowing garda watchdog GSOC to examine potential garda involvement in cross-border Troubles-era cold cases, Mr Harris will say a HSE board must return to ensure accountability.

As part of his response to the ongoing cervical cancer scandal, Mr Harris will say the new HSE board, which will be put in place by January, will include a chairperson and chief executive to replace the current management structure, and crucially, non-executive board members to ensure independence.

And, while the board members’ identities will not be confirmed for a number of months, Government sources said today’s discussion will be used to examine the possibility of a patient advocate being appointed to the new board.

Meanwhile, today’s cabinet meeting will also see ministers discuss plans to give garda watchdog GSOC new powers to take part in Troubles-era cold-case investigations in the North — including examining the actions of gardaí during the period.

Due in part to previous agreements between Sinn Féin and the Democratic Unionist Party, a new historical legacies group is due to be established in Northern Ireland to examine unsolved murders linked to paramilitaries during the Troubles.

The cross-border nature of some of the cases has led to prior difficulties in how they can be resolved due to the fact both the PSNI and the gardai would have to be involved in what happened.

However, under an amendment to the Criminal Justice International Co-Operation Act, 2017, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan will say the extra powers are needed to ensure transparency on cases during the era.

Today’s meeting will also hear Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney update cabinet on Brexit and the crisis in the Middle East.

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