The Patient Safety (Notifiable Patient Safety Incidents) Bill 2019 - Update

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The Patient Safety (Notifiable Patient Safety Incidents) Bill 2019 - Update

Published 28 March 2023

The Taoiseach, Micheál Martin recently said in the Dail in relation to the Patient Safety Bill, “I want the legislation concluded by the end of the year [2022], and we will work with might and main to make sure that happens,”. The Taoiseach was referring to the Patient Safety (Notifiable Patient Safety Incidents) Bill 2019 while paying tribute to the late CervicalCheck campaigner, Vicky Phelan when he committed to bringing the relevant amendments to the legislation forward to allow for mandatory disclosure.

As matters stand, the issue of what ‘serious incidents’ should be subject to mandatory disclosure remains unknown. The Bill, in its current form, only requires mandatory disclosure of serious patient safety incidents where a death has occurred.

The Taoiseach’s recent comments coincide with the release of Dr Gabriel Scally’s final report on implementation of the recommendations made in his Scoping Inquiry into CervicalCheck Screening Programme Final Report 2018. This is the fourth and final report by Dr Scally since the CervicalCheck scandal emerged in 2018. In his final report, Dr Scally points out that the Patient Safety (Notifiable Patient Safety Incidents) Bill 2019, will not move the requirement for open disclosure forward, in its current form.

The debate about whether the cases highlighted by the CervicalCheck scandal are considered patient safety incidents comes after the Government was told in 2018 that Ms Phelan’s case was not considered to be a patient safety issue. However, according to the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, the non-disclosure that happened in CervicalCheck should still be legislated for. Following these comments, the Cabinet has recently agreed that patients who are diagnosed with cancer and request reviews of their files, will be given a history of their records under plans for mandatory open disclosure agreed by Cabinet. This followed news reports that HSE board members were concerned about an amendment the Minister planned to the legislation that would make it a legal obligation for doctors and surgeons to disclose to a patient if a “discordance” was found in a lookback of their files. Under this new proposal, all patient-requested reviews will have to be disclosed, irrespective of whether there is a discordance or not.

As part of a second amendment to the legislation, it has emerged that HIQA (the Health Information and Quality Authority) will be given a discretionary power to carry out a review of certain serious patient safety incidents that have occurred during the provision of healthcare in a nursing home.

At this late stage, there are still so many unknows regarding this legislation. Despite what the Taoiseach said just a few short weeks ago in the Dail, Mr Donnelly has most recently said he is open to making changes to the legislation but that this could delay the legislation until early January 2023 even though the Government had promised to pass the Bill before Christmas.

We have previously written about the shortcomings in relation to patient safety incidents which require mandatory disclosure under the current draft Patient Safety Bill. The situation regarding the legislation is fluid to say the least and further changes in the draft legislation are expected. It remains to be seen whether any significant changes will be made however the issue is one which the Government is under pressure to deliver on particularly in light of the CervicalCheck scandal.


Niamh McKeever

Niamh McKeever


+ 353 1 231 9697

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