Current Legislative Measures
The Health Information Bill
Every patient is entitled to open and honest communication about his or her healthcare especially when plans change or something goes wrong. Given this basic principle, if something happens to a patient in the course of treatment and care which impacts or could impact on the person’s health or quality of life, the patient should be informed of the event, given an adequate explanation and reassured that measures have been taken to prevent such an event happening in the future. They should also be offered support and counselling, if appropriate, in the aftermath of such an event.
This is not easy. First and foremost, a patient safety incident can prove to be a hugely traumatic experience for the patient and his or her family. Fear and distress are compounded by the natural anger felt when something happens that should not have happened. For the health professional, the aftermath of a serious patient safety incident is a difficult time, not only professionally but on a human level. However, true governance demands a framework for open disclosure as part of an overall system which includes the management of adverse events generally and also clinical audit.
As part of the implementation process for the report of the Commission on Patient Safety and Quality Assurance, the Health Information Bill, which will be published in 2012 will provide for the Health Information Quality Authority (HIQA) to develop national standards on the open disclosure of patient safety incidents to patients, national standards on the reporting of adverse events and national standards on clinical audit. The Bill will also provide that statements made in good faith by health care providers in compliance with the standards will not be admissible in a civil action. As recommended by the Commission, the reporting of serious adverse events will be mandatory and reports will be confidential and privileged. The provisions of the Health Information Bill, along with the other work underway, will facilitate a culture of openness and proper governance so that the system has the capacity to learn from mistakes and ensure that they are not repeated.
Licensing of Public and Private Hospitals
Strengthening the culture of safety and quality across the health services will be underpinned by the introduction of Standards for Better, Safer Healthcare prepared by the Health Information and Quality Authority. This will represent the beginning of a further set of major advances towards our shared ambition to strengthen patient safety and quality in health service provision. The leadership of this change from a governance and management perspective will be a key dimension of progressing towards this goal. This will be a consistent theme in the standards and legislation coming through.
Once adopted, the application of the Standards will be reinforced by legislation for the mandatory licensing of public and private healthcare providers which the Department of Health is currently preparing.