The Patient Safety (Notifiable Patient Safety Incidents) Bill 2019

Written by
Rachael O’Shaughnessy on
20 December 2019

The recent publication of The Patient Safety (Notifiable Patient Safety Incidents) Bill 2019 is a very welcome legislative development in the area of medical negligence. 

On Thursday, December 5th, Minister for Health Simon Harris, TD, published the new Patient Safety (Notifiable Patient Safety Incidents) Bill 2019, which will legislate for several important patient safety measures.

Commenting on the Bill, Minister Harris said, "I want us to have a culture of open disclosure, where health practitioners are supported and where patients’ voices are heard.”

Why is this good news?

Not only does the Bill list specific patient safety incidents that will be subject to mandatory open disclosure, but it also includes a new process to designate other patient safety incidents for which open disclosure will be mandatory.

A second major aim of the new legislation is to ensure that these serious patient safety incidents enable national learning. It also supports improvements across the health service to prevent harm to other patients.

The new Bill will require notification of these serious patient safety incidents externally to the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), the Chief Inspector of Social Services (CISS), and the Mental Health Commission (MHC) to contribute to national patient safety learning and improvement. This measure should improve standards in the Irish healthcare system.

Importantly, mandatory open disclosure and the notification system for these serious patient safety incidents will not only apply to public services, but also to private health care services.

What does all this mean for patients?

  • The Bill appears to build on the voluntary open disclosure procedures introduced in 2018 under the Civil Liability (Amendment) Act 2017. 

What happens next?

  • The Bill must pass through the various legislative stages in the Houses of the Oireachtas.
  • After passing through the Houses, the Bill must be signed into law by the President.

As 2019 draws to a close, this is a positive step towards better patient care. We shall have to wait and see if the Bill is enacted in 2020.

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