Patients who are diagnosed with cancer to be allowed review of their files

Proposals will come to the Dáil next week as part of Government promises about open disclosures following death of campaigner Vicky Phelan

Patients who are diagnosed with cancer and request reviews of their files will be given a history of their records under plans for mandatory open disclosure agreed by Cabinet on Tuesday.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly received Government approval to introduce an amendment to the text of the Patient Safety Bill.

During tributes to CervicalCheck campaigner Vicky Phelan, who died earlier this month, Taoiseach Micheál Martin pledged that the mandatory disclosure legislation would be brought “to a conclusion before the end of the year”.

However, it then emerged that HSE board members were concerned about an amendment the Minister planned to the legislation that would make it a legal obligation for doctors and surgeons to disclose to a patient if a “discordance” was found in a look-back of their files.


The Cabinet was told on Tuesday that the amendment will now provide for open disclosure of individual patient-requested reviews of their cancer screening by the HSE.

Under this proposal, all patient-requested reviews will have to be disclosed, irrespective of whether there is a discordance or not.

As part of a second amendment to the legislation, the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) will be given a discretionary power to carry out a review of certain serious patient safety incidents that have occurred during the provision of healthcare in a nursing home. The legislation is due to come back before the Dáil next Wednesday, December 7th.

Mr Donnelly and Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman also brought an update to Cabinet following the cyberattack on the HSE in May 2021.

The meeting was told that there is no evidence to date of publication of HSE or Tusla data online, and that there is continued monitoring of the dark and public web to identify any possible publication.

The HSE and Tusla are also planning to notify the “data subjects” or people affected by the attack.

The Cabinet was told it is “probable” that following the data notification process, some legal claims could be lodged. The two Departments are engaging with the Attorney General on this. A communications strategy is also being finalised.

The HSE obtained a High Court order in May 2021 restraining any sharing, processing, selling or publishing of data illegally accessed and copied from its computer systems. This remains in place.

Separately, Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath brought a report to Cabinet on the distribution and utilisation of national lottery funding. It comes after a report from Indecon Economic Consultants. The consultants surveyed the general population and beneficiaries of the funding.

Lottery operations in the UK, New Zealand and Finland were also examined.

The Cabinet was told that there will be a number of reforms on foot of the report. A cross-departmental liaison group will be set up to promote a wider acknowledgment of national lottery support and an open fund will also be set up for which applications can be made.

Separately, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue received approval for a €1.2bn Ukraine Credit Guarantee Scheme for small and medium enterprises. It will be operated by the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland, through participating finance providers.

The scheme will facilitate low-cost loans for working capital and short-term investment for SMEs and primary producers. The scheme will allow these businesses to spread the increased costs for this year and next by making loans available which are repayable on terms of up to six years.

The Tánaiste also informed the Cabinet about an impending white paper on violence and harassment in the workplace, which will be published shortly.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times