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Vicky Phelan Sam Boal/
Patient Safety Bill

Campaigners hail passing of Patient Safety Bill and say it'll help people 'find out the truth'

The Bill will make it mandatory for people to be told that they have a right to a review of their cancer screening results.

A FOUNDING MEMBER of the 221+ CervicalCheck advocacy group has said it was an “immensely proud day” yesterday to see the passing of the Patient Safety Bill through the Dáil.

The Bill will make it mandatory for people to be told that they have a right to a review of their cancer screening results.

“It was a very proud day … proud and sad. It was difficult that Vicky [Phelan] wasn’t with us yesterday. She was the lady that kickstarted a lot of this off,” Lorraine Walsh, a founding member of 221+, told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland this morning. 

“Obviously, the Patient Safety Bill covers a lot of other issues but it was very important to her that there would be open disclosure going forward in relation to the screening service and that will now happen,” she said. 

“It was an immensely proud day for me and for the other people involved in 221 to know what happened to Vicky and others, like myself, will not happen again.” 

The 221+ advocacy group was set up in July 2018 by Stephen Teap, Lorraine Walsh and the late Vicky Phelan.

In November, Cabinet agreed an amendment to the Patient Safety Bill to provide for open disclosure.

Yesterday evening, the Dáil agreed on the amendments. The proposed legislation will now go further for scrutiny in the Seanad. 

It will become law once it passes through the Seanad and is signed by President Michael D Higgins. 

The amendment will provide for open disclosure of completed individual patient requested reviews of their cancer screening by the HSE.  

The overarching intention of the Bill is to embed a culture of open disclosure in the health and social services.

Under the proposal, all patient-requested reviews will have to be disclosed irrespective of whether there is a discordance or not.  

Under this amendment, Hiqa will be given a discretionary power to carry out a review of certain serious patient safety incidents which have occurred during the provision of health care, where some or all of the care of a patient was carried out in a nursing home, whether public or private. 

The Patient Safety Bill also extends Hiqa’s remit to private hospitals.   

Before the amendments, the majority of the Bill provided for mandatory open disclosure in cases where the patient had died.

Labour TD Alan Kelly told Morning Ireland it is “the most important piece of legislation, personally, that I’ve ever done”. 

“I had a very close relationship with Vicky, I made a commitment to Vicky that we would get this done,” Kelly said. 

“The Bill deals with open disclosure whereby health providers have to, where there is a serious patient incident, notify the affected party, and also the clinician has to do so,” he said. 

“It also deals with the issue in relation to Hiqa taking over remit in relation to private hospitals, which was an anomoly. Finally, obviously, it deals with the issue of clinical audits. The critial issue here was patient reviews.”

Kelly said patients will be told at the time of screenings that they will be entitled to a review.

When asked on Morning Ireland what difference this Bill could have made, if it had been law, to her situation, Walsh said: “A lot of women, after being diagnosed, say and ask the question ‘How did this happen? I’ve had my smears, my smears have come back ok, and how am I in a situation where I now have cancer?’.

“This opportunity will happen now that it will be offered, after the point of diagnosis, a review of your smears or your screening prior to your diagnosis.”

Walsh said this will allow patients to look back and see whether anything was missed or whether there was an opportunity that was missed. 

“It just means that you can actually find out the truth,” she said. 

“It’s so important to everybody to know the truth in relation to your history, in relation to your health, and to be able to at least have peace,” Walsh added. 

Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the Bill is going to lead to “more transparency”.

Donnelly said that while the Bill covers the whole health service, “it is absolutely correct that the genesis of the Bill does come from the cervical screening”. 

“It comes from the women who stood up, and men who stood up, and said we’re just not having this anymore … this is no way to treat patients, Donnelly said. 

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