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HIQA launches new standards

New National Standards aimed at protecting patients and radically improving services, and which will form the basis for future licensing of all healthcare facilities, have been launched by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA).

The National Standards for Safer Better Healthcare contain 45 Standards, based on best international evidence, to ensure service providers protect patients from risk and from harm, inform patients of adverse events, acknowledge and support the key role of staff, promote good governance and make the best use of information and resources.

Every service, including hospitals, primary care and ambulance services, are expected to use the new Standards to improve the service they provide to patients

The Standards were sanctioned by the Minister for Health in May and they take immediate effect under Section 8 of the Health Act 2007. Every service, including hospitals, primary care and ambulance services, are expected to use the new Standards to improve the service they provide to patients.

At the launch of the Standards, HIQA chief executive Dr Tracey Cooper said: “Patients will have a clear expectation of the standard of care they can expect to receive and service providers will be clear on what is expected of them. The Standards provide, for the first time, a national and consistent approach to improving safety, quality and reliability in our health service.”

The new standards follow a number of high profile failures in the health system, including a year-long investigation into the running of Tallaght Hospital’s emergency department after an inquest into the death of a patient who died in a corridor while waiting for a bed.

www.hiqa.ie

Medical Council annual report

There was a significant increase in the number of doctors struck off the medical register, according to the latest annual report of the Medical Council.

The principal subjects for complaint were treatment, failure to communicate and issues related to professional standards

The number of erasures increased from two in 2010 to eight in 2011, the figures show. A total of 380 new complaints were received by the Council last year, representing a 5% increase from 2010.

Commenting on the figures, Minister for Health Dr James Reilly said the increase was due to greater surveillance and earlier intervention by the Council, which picked up on doctors “going off the path before they cause real harm”. The principal subjects for complaint were treatment, failure to communicate and issues related to professional standards.

Of 32 doctors referred to the council’s health subcommittee, ten were referred for reasons connected with psychological health, nine for drug use, eight for alcohol and drug use and four for alcohol use alone. As of January 2011, some 23 doctors were taking part in monitoring processes under Medical Council guidance.

www.medicalcouncil.ie

Symphysiotomy

The Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has offered its unreserved sympathy to women who have suffered as a result of a controversial obstetric operation.

The Institute’s statement follows the official publication of a draft report commissioned by the Department of Health on the use of symphysiotomy between 1944 and 1984.

A final report must include a firm set of proposals offering a full formal apology and practical aid to surviving victims of symphysiotomy

Up to 1,500 women here underwent symphysiotomy, an operation to widen the pelvis during childbirth, over the 40-year period. While represented as a necessary emergency procedure, the operation was also carried out electively in circumstances such as immediately after Caesarean section.

Having fallen out of use throughout the world, symphysiotomy was resurrected in the Republic in the 1940s. It was championed by individual obstetricians and
certain institutions, reportedly because of safety concerns about repeated Caesarean sections and the ban on contraception and sterilisation.

Many women suffered lifelong incontinence and difficulty walking following the procedure. A final report must include a firm set of proposals offering a full formal apology and practical aid to surviving victims of symphysiotomy, an action group representing the women affected said.

www.rcpi.ie

Patient hardship increases litigation

The State Claims Agency (SCA) has reported an upwards trend in the number of claims for clinical negligence received in the first six months of the year – a trend that the SCA has attributed to the current economic climate.

Ciaran Breen, the director of the SCA, said: “Anecdotally, there appears to be a link between the prevailing difficult economic and fiscal circumstances and the higher rate of claims. It appears that people, injured as a result of a medical negligence event, are more likely to sue doctors, dentists and hospitals in these more difficult economic times.”

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