Patients call for European charter of rights

The Irish Patients' Association (IPA) has called for the Government to implement the European Charter of Patients' Rights to …

The Irish Patients' Association (IPA) has called for the Government to implement the European Charter of Patients' Rights to develop and provide a world-class health service

A review of the charter in Ireland that was carried out by a research team from the School of Nursing and the School of Law and Government at Dublin City University was unveiled by the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney today.

Ms Harney said that with a health service budget of €12 billion this year, it was important that hospitals were measured to ensure they produced proper outcomes for patients.  "The interests of the patient will be paramount. It will not be the interest of any other stakeholder that comes first."

However, she said it was not possible to provide a statutory charter of patients' rights. "That's just not realistic. In every debate about rights, we have to be limited by what the resources can deliver in any one year. Perhaps everyone in Ireland would like a medical card but it's just not possible to fund that."


Mr Stephen McMahon, chairman of the IPA, said the charter should be adapted and modified for Ireland to ensure it will improve the standards of patient care. He said it was vital patients are consulted if standards are to improve. "By working with them and listening to them we can ensure that their needs and their rights are provided for," he said.

At the launch in the Royal College of Surgeons, Ms Harney also admitted her ten-point plan to end the overcrowding crisis in A&E departments within her first six months Minister for Health had not worked as planned. "I had hoped to see more results in March but unfortunately because of the controversy surrounding charges it has been more difficult for hospitals to encourage people into more appropriate settings like nursing homes for example."

Ms Harney said the current A&E situation was still not acceptable. "The solution is around better access to GPs, better flow through the hospital and a more appropriate setting for older people in particular because we have elderly people in these Dublin hospitals who do not need to be there and we are in the process of finding alternative accommodation for them."

Listeners to RTÉ's Liveline phone in programme have offered to donate portable cabins, bedside lockers, toiletries and other equipment to help relieve the A&E crisis. Ms Harney said she encouraged voluntary fundraising because it had helped pay for many hospital facilities.

"But what's required in the Dublin area and to a lesser extent in other areas is a better flow of patients through the hospitals and in particular more facilities for long term patients who are not suitable for returning home."

The European Charter of Patients' Rights, which was introduced in 2002, provides a set of 14 rights including: the right to preventive measures; access; information; consent; free choice; privacy and confidentiality. Also included are the right to respect of patients' time; the observance of quality standards; safety; innovation; the right to avoid unnecessary suffering and pain as well as the right to personalised treatment; the right to complain and the right to compensation.