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File image of a hospital corridor. Alamy Stock Photo

Patient Safety Bill, which aims to create 'culture' of transparency, signed into law

The Bill will require healthcare providers to disclose certain serious safety incidents to patients or their families.

THE PATIENT SAFETY Bill, which aims to provide more transparency in healthcare, has been signed into law.

President Michael D Higgins signed the Bill into law this afternoon.

The Bill has long been sought by campaigners including the 221+ CervicalCheck patient support group.

Lorraine Walsh, a founding member of 221+, said it was an “immensely proud day” when the Patient Safety Bill passed through the Dáil.

The Bill will require healthcare providers to disclose certain serious safety incidents to patients or their families.

If a health service provider becomes aware of a “notifiable incident” occurring, they will be obliged to notify the incident to the Health Information and Quality Authority, the Chief Inspector of Social Services or the Mental Health Commission within seven days of the incident.

The Bill describes “notifiable incidents” as those of a “very serious nature (all death-related) that mostly fall into the category of preventable incidents”.

Failing to comply with the law will make the health service provider liable to be charged with an offence, with a potential fine of up to €5,000.

Speaking last week, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly labelled the Bill a “watershed moment”, adding: “It will contribute to embedding a culture where clinicians, and the health service as a whole, engage openly, transparently and compassionately with patients and their families when things go wrong with the care they receive.”

Donnelly also said that the Bill aims to “support a just culture in our health services, which is focused on openness, learning and improvement rather than blame.

He added: “In many situations where patients are harmed, the error or mistake occurred because systems were not in place to support the healthcare professional or team in identifying and avoiding that error.

“Creating a culture of open disclosure and learning from the things that go wrong is the bedrock of making services safer.”

The bill also creates a mandatory requirement for people to be informed that they have a right to a review of their cancer screening results, known as a ‘Part 5 review’.

Commenting on the Bill last week, Minister Donnelly said: “While the focus of this Bill is much wider than cancer screening services, it is absolutely correct that the Bill has been informed by CervicalCheck and from the women and men who stood up and made their voices heard.

“The inclusion of the new ‘Part 5 review’ will enshrine in law for the first time, the right of patients to mandatory open disclosure of all information regarding a patient-requested review of their cancer screening.”

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