Patient Safety Bill to be amended after concerns raised by TDs

Final approval of the Bill will now be in the New Year.
Patient Safety Bill to be amended after concerns raised by TDs

By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly is to draft an amendment to the Patient Safety Bill to make it mandatory for people to be told that they have a right to a review of their cancer screening results.

The amendment relates to a draft law being fast-tracked in memory of the late campaigner Vicky Phelan, and comes after Mr Donnelly had been told the Bill “does not pass the Vicky test”.

Several opposition TDs said they had no issue with the Bill or amendments before the Dáil, but felt it was being “rushed” through without proper scrutiny.

In order to allow for the new amendment, Mr Donnelly said the passing of the Bill would be delayed until after the Christmas period, despite promises to get it done before then.

In the wake of Ms Phelan’s death three weeks ago, the Government and politicians pledged to pass the Patient Safety Bill before the end of the year.

 

Addressing the Dáil on Wednesday, Mr Donnelly said that one of the most “substantial” amendments he was bringing forward allowed for mandatory open disclosure in relation to including a right to request the results of cancer screening reviews.

Before Wednesday’s amendments, the majority of the Bill provided for mandatory open disclosure in cases where the patient had died.

“All reviews will have to be disclosed irrespective of whether there is a discordance and this is the nub of it,” Mr Donnelly told TDs.

“All reviews must be disclosed to the patient where the patient has requested the review.”

This would apply to all people who had taken part in a screening programme and who had later been diagnosed with cancer.

Mr Donnelly told the Dáil that based on data from the UK, it was estimated that about half of patients would choose to see the review of their smear tests after a cancer diagnosis.

 

He added: “Every single woman who has a diagnosis of cancer would be informed that there is a patient review process available to them should they want it.”

Among the issues raised by opposition politicians was that there was no legal obligation on healthcare professionals to tell women diagnosed with cancer that they had a right to review their smear slides.

Advising patients on their right to review would be contained in guidelines for healthcare staff, the Dáil heard.

Former Labour leader Alan Kelly said during an emotional contribution that the Bill “doesn’t pass the Vicky test”.

He said that two other CervicalCheck campaigners, Stephen Teap and Lorraine Walsh, did not support the Bill in its current form.

“We shouldn’t be here minister. This is rushed, so rushed. We got these 40-something pages of amendments on Friday.

“I want to support this Bill. We shouldn’t be here doing this like this. It’s just not good practice.”

“This is not open disclosure,” he added, while acknowledging that it was a difficult “balancing act” on what was “a very, very technical piece of legislation”.

He said that based on the current legislation, in Ms Phelan’s case there “wouldn’t have been an obligation” to tell her about the findings of her audited smears unless she had requested them.

“That’s the reason why we can’t support it as it’s currently drafted,” he said.

Independent TD Richard O’Donoghue
Independent TD Richard O’Donoghue also raised a concern during the debate (Niall Carson/PA)

“This doesn’t pass the Vicky test, and that is so, so, so important to me.”

At the end of the debate, Mr Donnelly said that he would be open to amending the Bill so that it would be a legal obligation for people to be told they had a right to request a review of their slides.

“I think given the circumstances we have here, I’d certainly be very open to amending the Bill to make it an obligation under the bill that the patient is told (there is a patient request review available to them).

“If we were all agreeable to putting this amendment in place, it would probably push final stages into January.”

Opposition politicians welcomed the move.

“I think that’s a really important amendment and we would support it,” Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane said.

“If it takes until January to do it, I think the women and patients generally would say ‘let’s get it right’ rather than rushing it through. If that’s what it takes, that’s what we should do.”

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