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Protected Disclosures in the Irish Health Service ("Whistleblowing")

Background and purpose

· Arrangements for Whistleblowing came into effect in March 2009. This procedure was devised to give effect to the legislation on Protected Disclosures of Information as provided for in the Health Act 2004 (as amended by the Health Act 2007).

· The legislation refers in the main to public health service employees but includes some arrangements for private health care workers.

· Its purpose is to facilitate employees to make protected disclosures in good faith to an authorised person (person nominated to take complaints) where they have reasonable grounds for believing that the health or welfare of patients/clients or the public may be put at risk, or where there is waste of public funds or legal obligations are not being met, so that the matter can be investigated.

· This legislation generally provides for protected disclosures to be made to the HSE, other Service Providers, bodies established under the Health (Corporate Bodies) Act 1961 ( e.g. Irish Blood Transfusion Service), Scheduled Bodies* and Professional Regulatory Bodies **. In the case of employees of the HSE, other service providers and the 1961 bodies, employees will normally make a protected disclosure to an authorised person in that body under the procedures referred to above and, it will in the first instance, be for the authorised persons to investigate such disclosures. However, an employee can opt to go directly to a Scheduled Body if this is justified by reason of the urgency of the matter, or if s/he reported a concern to the employer and no action took place.

· *Scheduled Bodies are as follows: - Adoption Board - Chief Inspector of Social Services - Comptroller and Auditor General - Health Information and Quality Authority - Inspector of Mental Health Services - Irish Medicines Board - Mental Health Commission.

· **Professional Regulatory Bodies are as follows: - An Bord Altranais - the Dental Council - the Medical Council - Health and Social Care Professionals Council and the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland.

Who is covered?

Public Health Service

This procedure applies to all employees of the following:

1. Employees of HSE and employees of HSE funded services e.g. public hospitals, public nursing homes, community care facilities, public psychiatric hospitals and psychiatric units in public hospitals as well as publicly funded residential centres for disabled persons and children’s residential centres. Under the legislation the HSE had to put in place procedures for authorised persons to hear and investigate concerns from its employees and employees of agencies which the HSE funds.

Private Health Service

2. Employees of private nursing homes may report their concerns to the Chief Inspector of Social Services.

3. Employees of private Mental Health facilities may report their concern to the Inspector of Mental Health Services or the Mental Health Commission.

(For the purposes of the legislation, the definition of employee covers agency workers and persons on placement for the purpose of vocational training with any of the above).

 

What are the protections for employees?

· Employees who report any such matters in good faith and have reasonable grounds for doing so will be protected from being penalised by their employers, and from civil liability. The exception is where an employee has made a report which s/he could reasonably have known to be false.

· An employee who feels that s/he has suffered detrimental treatment by his/her employer in relation to any aspect of his/her employment as a result of making a disclosure to an authorised person can refer a complaint of penalisation to a Rights Commissioner.

Additional avenues for HSE employees and employees of agencies funded by the HSE to provide services on its behalf

· Public health service employees may also make a protected disclosure to a Professional Regulatory body if after making it to an authorised person no investigation takes place or if an investigation takes place but there is no action or recommended action in the matter.

· It is also open to any employee where they believe that a criminal offence has been committed, to go to the Garda Siochána.

Other avenues

· It is important to note that anyone can also make a disclosure to a professional regulatory body about a health professional e.g. doctors, nurses etc.

· In addition, if anyone believes that a criminal offence has been committed, it is open to them to go to the Garda Siochána.

The Authorised Person for the HSE and all HSE funded service providers and grant aided agencies can be contacted at the following address: The Authorised Person, P.O. Box 11571 Dublin 2 or by telephoning 01 6626984.

Read HSE leaflet for staff on Protected Disclosures

As part of the Programme for Public Service Reform legislation to protect whistleblowers and to protect confidential communications with members of the Oireachtas will be enacted. Read This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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