Doctors must tell patients of errors, under new Varadkar law

Like a motoring ‘hit and run’ for doctors to fail to make such disclosures, says Minister

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar claimed the health service is now in a more stable financial position than it has been for many years. Photograph: Oireachtas TV

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar claimed the health service is now in a more stable financial position than it has been for many years. Photograph: Oireachtas TV

 

Doctors and health professionals will be obliged by law to tell patients where mistakes or accidents take place in their treatment, the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children has heard.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar said it was the equivalent of a motoring “hit and run” for doctors and health professionals to fail to make such disclosures and to live up to their duty of candour.

“I find that [behaviour] really appalling and it is not the type of medicine I was trained in.”

Mr Varadkar told the committee if doctors did adhere to their duty of candour and open disclosure, and informed patients when they had made a medical mistake, “a lot fewer people would sue”.

The Minister said he now intended to legislate to make open disclosure a legal requirement.

Mr Varadkar also told the committee that pharmaceutical companies had the State “over a barrel, quite frankly” when there was only one particular drug to deal with a certain condition – an “orphan medicine”.

Speaking of the decision by the HSE to make the drug Soliris available for patients with rare blood diseases, at a cost of about €430,000 annually, he said it was still not considered cost effective at that price.

Discussing spending plans for this year, Mr Varadkar told the committee the health service had insufficient funding to address all areas of concern immediately.

However he said the budget available would allow for a start to stabilising health service funding.

He maintained the health service was now in a more stable financial position than it had been for many years.

There was “undoubtedly a strong case for increased health funding in the years ahead”, he said.

However, increased spending without reform would not resolve the difficulties which the health service faced.

The Minster said it was hoped that the plan for free GP care for children under six would be introduced by mid-year although talks were still underway with doctors on the plan.

He denied healthy children under six of well-off parents would get free GP care under the plan while sick children outside this age group were not being given medical cards.

He said his initiative was the first step towards free GP care for all. He argued the main beneficiaries would be low- and middle-income earners – “people who get nothing from the State other than education”.

Mr Varadkar said that the free GP service for children under sixes would include the management of asthma and a health check for obesity.