Priority Alan Kelly attached to women’s health issues acknowledged by Varadkar

Legislation on disclosure of patient safety issues delayed too long, admits Tánaiste

Legislation which will make open disclosure of serious patient safety issues mandatory has been delayed "a bit too long", Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said.

Mr Varadkar said TDs should endeavour to get the Patient Safety (Notifiable Patient Safety Incidents) Bill 2019 enacted “no later than the end of this year”.

The Tánaiste was responding to Labour leader Alan Kelly in the Dáil on Thursday, who used his final Leader's Questions to ask if the Bill would be enacted and "put into law very quickly".

Mr Kelly paid tribute to health campaigners Vicky Phelan, Lorraine Walsh, Steven Teap and John Wall.

He said four years on from Ms Phelan's High Court case in April 2018 over the reading of her smear test, "huge progress" had been made to the CervicalCheck screening programme but that "we do need to move on a range of issues".

The Tipperary TD said this included the review of the legislation on abortion, ensuring the new National Maternity Hospital was publicly owned and controlled as well as outstanding recommendations from Dr Gabriel Scally to CervicalCheck.

Mr Kelly said the Patient Safety Bill had been debated in 2019 but was “stuck at committee stage ever since”

“We need to get this over the line because it will provide for mandatory open disclosure and ensure patients’ voices are heard,” he said.

“This is about ensuring people have an absolute right to know information about their healthcare, that hospitals, screening providers, doctors don’t keep information from people.

“This is going on way too long and I would ask for Vicky and for everyone else that we address this asap and finally get it over the line. It’s a dear request for me, I want to see this over the line.”

Mr Varadkar paid tribute to Mr Kelly as leader of the Labour party and, previously, as a Government minister. He said he knew Mr Kelly had taken “particular interest” on issues around women’s health and that significant progress had been made in implementing the Scally report, with four out of 170 actions due to be completed at the end of 2021.

Mr Varadkar said the Patient Safety Bill would go to committee stage in the Dáil next week, adding “it has been delayed a bit too long and I think we should all endeavour to get that legislation enacted no later than the end of this year”.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times