Health and Social Protection departments should have computerised link, says FG TD

Olivia Mitchell says safety issue must be addressed

Fine Gael TD Olivia Mitchell has called for a computerised link between the Departments of Health and Social Protection.

She said the two departments overlapped and should be linked. “It is very important the two systems are able to speak to one another about the same patient,’’ she added.

Ms Mitchell was speaking during the resumed debate on the Health Identifiers Bill 2013, introducing a system of "identifiers'' for individuals and health providers across the system.

She said it was hard to believe the facility was not in place for many years, given it seemed such an obvious precondition for patient safety.


“Given that people can have the same surname, it is easy to see how there is potential for really disastrous mistakes to be made in testing, communicating the results of tests, diagnosing, prescribing and treatment,’’ she added.

Identity mistakes
Ms Mitchell recalled a woman telling her about her worry when she had a new baby because somebody in the same ward had the same name as her. "She was never terribly sure if she was getting the right baby or not, although I know maternity hospitals go to great trouble to ensure one does get the right baby,'' she added.

“It is amazing we have so few mistakes relating to identity, with people consequently being given inappropriate treatments, particularly in hospitals.’’

Independent TD Denis Naughten said he hoped the Department of Health would be able to work with the Department of Transport to allow for medical data to be included on a driving licence.

He added it should contain basic information such as blood group, next of kin, and if the person had any allergies. This would allow paramedics treat a person at the scene of an accident rather than rushing them to the casualty department of a hospital.

Independent TD Terence Flanagan said the current system of storing patient records was antiquated and disjointed. Some documentation was stored in electronic format but most was held in files.

“Obviously, this can result in files being mislaid,’’ Mr Flanagan added. “It can present difficulties for healthcare professionals who need the complete picture with all the relevant information if they are to make informed decisions.’’

Independent TD Peter Mathews said while the electronic element of the initiative was good, they needed to watch out for a few areas.

“We should not allow some of its commercial dimensions to over-impose on the delivery of medical treatment at various stages including diagnosis, care and follow-up care,’’ he added. “Medicine and nursing are primarily about the person.’’

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times