I propose to take Questions Nos. 303, 326 and 327 together.
The health strategy emphasises the need to ensure the provision of high quality and safe care at the heart of a modernised health service. Consistent with this policy, I established the Irish health services accreditation board, IHSAB, on 1 May 2002.
The IHSAB operates an accreditation programme in the acute hospital sector with the aim of assuring safety for patients, staff and the public, within a framework of continuously improving quality of care. The accreditation process operates through a combination of self-assessment and peer review, using the skills of trained independent Irish and international surveyors in order to assess the safety and quality of care being provided. The standards applied by the IHSAB have been internationally accredited by the International Society for Quality in Healthcare.
The accreditation process first requires each participating hospital to carry out a thorough self-assessment, and to submit its findings to the IHSAB. Subsequently, a team of surveyors will visit the hospital to carry out the accreditation survey, following which a detailed report is issued to the hospital. The process is designed to bring to the attention of the hospital all significant issues which have been identified during the survey.
To ensure that these issues are acted upon, each hospital is required to submit progress reports in relation to issues of specific concern, with a more comprehensive report required from the hospital 12 months after the survey. In addition, surveyors carry out review visits where significant areas of concern have been identified. There is also a requirement that a further complete survey is conducted 18 months following the initial IHSAB survey.
I am satisfied that the accreditation process is already serving to assist participating hospitals in identifying and acting upon opportunities for quality improvement, and I look forward to the continuing roll-out of the scheme by the IHSAB across the hospital sector.
The questions raised relating to the accreditation surveys conducted at Dublin hospitals are appropriate to the IHSAB and, accordingly, have been referred for direct reply to the Deputy.