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Allegations of department gathering dossiers on children with autism 'extremely concerning', says Paul Reid

Patient confidentiality is one of the cornerstones of the health service, said the HSE boss.

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HSE BOSS PAUL Reid has said the allegations made in an RTÉ Investigates programme this week about the Department of Health gathering dossiers on children with special educational needs and their families is “extremely concerning”. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week programme, Reid welcomed the Taoiseach seeking a policy review, stating that the HSE will “fully embrace” it.

“I think the allegations are extremely concerning for everybody, extremely concerning for all of our medics all across the country who treat this really seriously,” said Reid. 

“Patient confidentiality is one of the cornerstones and key values in the health system. Trust between the medic and the patient is absolutely key,” he added.

Prior to production on Thursday evening, the HSE made contact with journalists involved with the programme to try identify any potential cases where there may have been a breach of confidentiality, said Reid.

Up until Friday, the HSE was not able to establish any cases where that confidentiality had been breached, he said, but added that the “intensive” work is ongoing.

“Whatever happens, we want to make sure to patient confidentiality and the trust between the patient and our medics is sustained as it is the cornerstone of our health system,” said Reid. 

Adam Harris, founder of AsIAmIreland said today that what he found most concerning is the response of the Department of Health as it implied that this was not a historic practice that should never have happened.

“Instead we’re being told this is normal investigation work,” he said.

Ahead of the broadcast yesterday, the Department of Health issued a statement to “reassure all parents, families and interested parties” that it has never unlawfully held sensitive medical and educational information of children involved in dormant court cases.

The Department said an independent, expert review by an external senior counsel was commissioned last year after the allegations in the programme were brought to its attention.

It said the review, completed in November 2020, found that information contained on relevant files managed by the Department “is consistent with, and typical of, the sort of information which arises in such litigation”. 

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“The examination also found no basis to suggest wrongdoing arising from the information contained.”

Harris said these are children with additional needs who weren’t being provided a basic education or the most basic therapeutic support, yet the State “drag them to through the courts”. 

The families now feel they were being taken advantage of when they were at their most vulnerable, he said.

“I think this really shows that we need to deep cultural reset as to how we treat children with  additional needs and their families here in Ireland,” said Harris.

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