Reilly unveils health service initiative


AN INITIATIVE to improve hospital governance and conditions for patients has been announced by Minister for Health James Reilly.

The four-part initiative will involve the establishment of “hospital groups” which will evolve into independent hospital trusts. It will also mean a hospital oversight group to be chaired by the chief medical officer to oversee change.

The third and fourth aspects of the proposal will involve the appointment of chairs to existing hospital groups in Galway and Limerick.

The scheme follows a Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) inquiry which claimed lives were at risk because patients were being treated on trolleys in corridors at Tallaght hospital in Dublin.

The Hiqa report also identified problems with financial governance and made recommendations for future hospital governance.

Yesterday’s announcement by Dr Reilly was described as a response in keeping with the department’s reform programme, as well as the recommendations of the Tallaght hospital report.

Prof John R Higgins has been appointed chairman of a strategic board to assist in the design and establishment of the hospital groups. As chairman he is to have a key role in ultimately moving to independent hospital trusts.

Noel Daly has been appointed chairman of the existing Galway-Roscommon University Hospital Group while Prof Niall O’Higgins has been appointed chairman of the existing Mid-Western Regional Hospital Group.

The term of the appointments is for three years and the boards of each group will be established on a non-statutory basis.

The three appointees will have key roles in the development of corporate and clinical governance structures for the hospital groups, along with quality and safety systems.

Dr Reilly said the oversight group, chaired by the chief medical officer Tony Holohan, would supervise implementation of significant recommendations of the Hiqa report on Tallaght.

Among the changes anticipated are a mandatory hospital board induction programme, clear definition of the role and function of the board, a clear delegation of accountability from the board to the chief executive and executive directors.

Another aim is to ensure annually agreed objectives are in place for the hospital chief executives.

On the appointments, Dr Reilly said leading international experts in patient safety and governance had agreed to join the oversight group chaired by the chief medical officer.

The confirmed membership of the group is: Dr Beth Lilja, director of Danish Society for Patient Safety; Dr Carol Peden of the Royal United Hospital, Bath; David Dalton, chief executive of Salford Royal National Health Service Foundation Trust; Gerry Marr, chief executive of the National Health Service Board Headquarters; Dr Deirdre Madden, senior lecturer at the faculty of law, University College Cork; and Dr Fergus Clancy, chairman of the Independent Hospital Association of Ireland.

Confirmation is awaited from two further members.