The Department of Health has been engaged in the development of policy in relation to the areas of Patient Safety, Complaints and Advocacy for a considerable period of time. Notably, the Government approved in December 2015 the establishment of a new National Patient Safety Office to bring forward legislation and provide the policy lead for patient safety.
Patient Safety Complaints and Advocacy Policy
In approving the Memorandum to Government on Patient Safety, the Government also directed the National Patient Safety Office in the Department of Health to undertake:
- A review, in association with the Health Service Executive, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, of S.I. No. 652/2006 Health Act (Complaints Regulations 2006 with a view to enhancement of the statutory provisions for management of complaints within the health services.
- Establishment of a patient advocacy service.
Public Consultation for the Patient Safety Complaints and Advocacy Policy took place between June and November of 2017 and a report of its findings was published in July 2018.
The consultation findings were analysed and key issues emerged from the consultation, grouped under four key themes to consider in the development of effective policy.
These themes are:
- patient centeredness,
- efficiency and responsiveness,
- capacity and capability, and
- learning for better outcomes.
Following on from that work, a tender process has recently been undertaken for the establishment of a new Patient Safety Advocacy Service.
The Patient Safety Advocacy Service will provide free and independent advocacy in support of anyone wishing to make a formal complaint about the care or treatment they received in the health service and for anyone who has been involved in a patient safety incident. The service will initially be focused on the public acute hospital sector.
Work has also been undertaken to develop a competency framework, and a recognised training programme, that will be undertaken in 2019 by the advocates engaged by the new service.
My department also plans to commission the development of a code of practice and standards against which the service will be monitored, while an independent evaluation of the service will take place within three years of its establishment.
In addition, my Department is continuing to review Statutory Instrument No. 652/2006 - Health Act 2004 (Complaints) Regulations 2006 with a view to enhancement of the statutory provisions for management of complaints within the health services and to consider the inclusion of clinical judgment in healthcare complaints. This review process will also encompass inputs from the Health Service Executive, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. It is expected that this process will conclude in 2019.