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O’Reilly calls for statutory ‘duty of candour’

21 February, 2018 - by Louise O'Reilly TD

This afternoon at Leaders' Questions, Sinn Féin health spokesperson Deputy Louise O’Reilly TD called on the Taoiseach to introduce a statutory ‘duty of candour’ in order to ensure that there is truth and honesty in the aftermath of a mistake in the health system.

Speaking about the case of Alison McCormack covered in last night’s RTÉ Investigates programme Teachta O’Reilly said:

“People should feel safe in our hospitals, they should be sure that they are getting the right care and the best possible care. They should be able to trust the advice of medical professionals and rest assured that the advice given is in their best interest.

“They should also be confident that when a mistake has been made and medical professionals and hospitals or other health institutions become aware of it, that they will be informed and all will be done to rectify the situation.

“That is what should naturally happen in a well-run health service.

“However, that this did not happen in the case of Alison McCormack is incredibly worrying.

“Compassion and honesty should be evident at all levels of the health service, and even more so at the higher institutional levels of our hospitals and the HSE.

“Nobody is saying that a health service will be without human error. But when a mistake is made there should be an apology and the relevant parties informed.

“Patients are at a disadvantage when an error occurs – what we saw last night was the system circling the wagons, and wilfully withholding information from a patient.

“We cannot allow this to keep happening and I believe the best way to address this situation is to have a legal ‘duty of candour’ to make it mandatory for health professionals to disclose information when mistakes have been made.

“Minister Varadkar, who did a u-turn as Minister for Health to not make it mandatory for open disclosure and he seems to think the current situation is suitable, but I fundamentally disagree. The practice of keeping quiet when things go wrong is so prevalent in our medical culture that only a statutory ‘duty of candour’ will address the situation.

“We need to try to create a culture of openness and honesty, especially at the higher levels of our hospitals and the HSE and we also need to support staff and ensure that honesty, openness, and transparency are integral to healthcare provision."

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