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News / August 11, 2008

Report on patient safety opens way for mandatory licensing

by Guy Hiscott

The Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney TD, has welcomed the report of the Commission on Patient Safety and Quality Assurance entitled Building a culture of patient safety.

The Minster said: ‘Perhaps the most significant recommendation of the report is the introduction of a licensing system for all health services whether they are delivered publicly or privately. The current system whereby anybody can open a hospital, for example, does not adequately offer patients the protection they need and deserve.’

Centres providing a range of medical treatment, including any dental treatment under anaesthesia/sedation and cosmetic surgery, would all be required to register.

While accepting that the health system will always be open to the possibility of human error, the Minister said that: ‘All of us working in the delivery of healthcare must make every effort to minimise error and maximise quality. A blame free reporting and management culture is undoubtedly in the best interests of patients.

‘I very much welcome the finding of the Commission that the absence of accountability arrangements such as quality assurance, clinical audit, measurement and monitoring which involve professionals limits the extent to which patients can be protected. Recent patient safety incidents can be attributed in large part to this. I therefore also welcome the many recommendation they have made to address this situation.

‘I want to see a system-wide, nation-wide patient-proofed health service that can be monitored and measured. This will ensure that we move from pockets of best practice to a situation where patients throughout the country can benefit from the same high standard of quality and safety.

‘One of the most common complaints I hear from patients and their families is the difficulty they encounter in getting information. This report advocates open communication and I very much support the enhanced and meaningful involvement of patients and their families.’

The Minister will now consider all the recommendations in the report with a view to bringing it to Government next month.

The report can be viewed downloaded at