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The cervical cancer scandal and the interests of the general public

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Governing Legislation – The Patient Safety Bill 2018;

                                       Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics 2016 Ed. Medical Council of



The Patient Safety Bill 2018 – This is a Bill passed in 2018 which requires mandatory open disclosure of serious reportable patient safety incidents, notification of reportable incidents, clinical audit to improve patient care and outcomes and extend the Health Information Quality Authority remit to private health services.

What is a serious patient safety incident? – it is an unintended or unanticipated injury or harm to a service user that occurred during the provision of a health services to include the following;

a). The death of a person

b). A permanent lessening of bodily sensory, motor, physical or intellectual functions (including removal of the wrong limb, or organ or brain damage)

c). Harm that is not severe harm but that results in ; i). an increase in the person’s treatment, ii). Changed in the structure of a person’s body iii). The shortening of the life expectancy of a person iv). An impairment of the sensory, motor or intellectual functions of the person that has lasted or is likely to last for a continuous period of at least 28 days

d). The person requiring treatment by a health practitioner in order to prevent the death of a person or any injury to the person that if left untreated would lead to one or more of the outcomes mentioned above in paragraphs b). or c).

Who is a health-service provider? – it is a person other than a health practitioner who provides one or more health services and for that purpose employs a health practitioner for the provision of health services.

Who is guilty of the offence?Essentially, the registered health service provider and not the registered health practitioner shall be guilty of an offence if the health service provider fails to make a mandatory open disclosure or fails to notify a reportable incident in accordance with the apology and information provision.

Who is required to make the mandatory open disclosure? – This remains unclear. The definition under the bill states that ‘a registered health service provider is one that is intended to cover both public and private health services and those who operate in both public and private sectors whether providing health services through a company, partnership or on their own.

Medical Council of Ireland Guide to professional Conduct and Ethics for Medical Practitioners – provides that patients and their families are entitled, where appropriate, to honest, open and prompt communication about adverse events that may have caused them harm.

-Medical Practitioners should acknowledge that the event happened, explain how it happened, apologise if appropriate and assure patients and their families that the cause of the event will be investigated and efforts made to reduce the chance of it happening again.


If you have been affected by the above, or have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact Valerie Byrne Senior Legal Executive or Niall MacCarthy Solicitor in our offices on 01 2960666 or e-mail your query to or