New independent patient safety council to review open disclosures policies

Dr Scally found current HSE and State Claims Agency policy was unsatisfactory

The move is set out in the implementation plan for the recommendations of Dr Gabriel Scally (above) on the Cervical Cancer Screening Programme which was approved by the Cabinet. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

A planned new independent patient safety council will, as its first action, undertake a review of open disclosure policies in the health service, a report published by the Minister for Health Simon Harris states.

The move is set out in the implementation plan for the recommendations of Dr Gabriel Scally on the Cervical Cancer Screening Programme which was approved by the Cabinet on Tuesday.

Dr Scally, in his report last autumn found the current HSE and State Claims Agency policy and health service practice in relation to open disclosure was contradictory and unsatisfactory.

He maintained that the issue of non-disclosure had been felt very intensely by the women and families involved in the recent controversy.


The implementation plan says the National Patient Safety Office “will finalise a proposal, including terms of reference and proposed membership for the establishment of an independent patient safety council to be submitted to Government for approval”.

“The council will have as its first task the completion of a detailed overhaul of existing policy on open disclosure reflecting the full range of Dr Scally’s recommendations in this regard.”

The Department of Health said patient safety legislation, which was currently being drafted, was one element “in a concerted range of actions that are required to strengthen the culture of open disclosure and ensure that it takes place in all circumstances where it is required”.

The Department of Health said that on November 30th, Dr Scally wrote to the Minister “and confirmed that he is satisfied that all parties are taking seriously the findings and recommendations of the scoping inquiry report [published in the autumn] and that resources have been allocated to take the work forward at a high level of priority.”

Mr Harris said the publication of the implementation plan “marks a key step in the delivery of the changes recommended by Dr Scally”.

“It will underpin the work required to ensure that the issues which have arisen in relation to open disclosure, governance and management and other key areas are fully addressed”.

Meanwhile Mr Harris has apologised after cancelling a planned meeting with the 221-plus group of women and families who have been affected by the CervicalCheck controversy.

David Walker, whose partner is one of the affected women, said there was a considerable level of anger over the cancellation.

“This meeting was planned around three months ago. We waited and waited for a date and they finally gave us a date in November. It was meant to be today. The majority of people going to this meeting had to take time off work, to arrange childcare, to book hotels and train tickets. People came from Cork, Waterford, Donegal and other areas. Some people only found out that it had been cancelled when they got to Dublin. Some of the women affected are still undergoing treatment,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the Minister said the cancellation was “unfortunately unavoidable due to the significant time commitment required for the passage of legislation on Termination of Pregnancy in the Seanad. He is required to be in the Seanad all afternoon and this evening up to 10pm”. His office has rearranged the meeting for January 31st.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times