Fine Gael TD for Meath East, Regina Doherty, has said that the new Patient Advocacy Service, announced today by the Minister for Health Leo Varadkar, will provide much needed support and advice for those using our health service.
“The need for this has become very clear in recent years and such a service was recommended by the HIQA Portlaoise Report back in May. For some time now I have called for the establishment of an independent patient advocacy organisation which reports to the Minister and the Minister alone. We need to break the influence of the many silos within the HSE, that have directly impacted on patient safety and outcomes.
“I want to particularly welcome the announcement of an annual patient experience survey. It is years since the HSE undertook any patient experience survey; it is therefore no wonder that we are where we are today. It is an absolute must that this exercise is independent and that the data collated is not malleable. The only way to ensure this is that the Department of Health, the HSE, and the new agencies announced today are removed from the independent collation of patient experiences. It is essential that this annual survey is adequately funded and done to international best research standards.
“For many years, and throughout many Governments, we have seen confidence in patient safety within the HSE plummet. All too often we have seen the evidence of failings in terms of clinical services, but also with regard to the support provided to patients. Many of these failings were, in my view, avoidable.
“Patients and their families have had to jump through hoops and endure excruciating legal processes in order to seek answers to questions about their loved ones while in the care of the HSE. Today’s announcement, which will see the establishment of a Patient Advocacy Service, will eliminate the torment endured by many families, and more importantly will act as a preventative measure for future clinical failings.
“Open disclosure, which is already HSE policy, will now be underwritten by legislation therefore reinforcing the policy and driving forward the overall patient safety agenda. I am confident, given the Minister’s commitment to delivering a top quality health service, and his announcement today, that we will begin to see restoration in people’s trust in our health service.
“Last May I called for what I described then as a fragmented advocacy service, to be adequately funded and reorganised in the name of patient safety; today we have certainly taken a step in the right direction.
“The purpose of the health service is to service patients and therefore it is vital that their voices are heard and their views taken on board.
“This new Patient Advocacy Service will provide advice, as well as detecting worrying patient safety trends in healthcare. The service will be external to the Department of Health and the HSE and will be in line with international best practice.
“I would also like to welcome the other patient safety measures approved by Cabinet and announced this morning by Minister for Health Leo Varadkar. The reforms include plans to simplify the complaints procedure, enhance the powers of the Ombudsman and HIQA, and a tranche of patient safety legislation.
“The Minister is also setting up a National Patient Safety Office in the Department of Health, which will report directly to the Minister and oversee the programme of patient safety measures.
“It is so important that when it comes to health service we put the patient first and it is my hope that these new measures, and particularly the new Patient Advocacy Service, will greatly improve people’s experience of dealing with our health service. We have a lot done and there is a lot more to do.”