Healthcare workers in Ireland have been instructed to tell patients about all incidents of harm or suspected harm and to provide “sincere and meaningful apologies”.

The Irish Times reports that the new Health Service Executive (HSE) policy on open disclosure affects all its 133,000 staff but is not mandatory under law and may be deferred in certain circumstances.

It has been made in response to the CervicalCheck controversy when hundreds of women were not told of an audit of their smear tests.

Legal Protection

Last year, a report by Dr Gabriel Scally found that the HSE’s existing policy was unsatisfactory, as it did not compel healthcare staff to disclose any failings.

Under the new policy, staff will be able to claim legal protection under the Civil Liability (Amendment) Act 2017, so their apology cannot be used in court against them.

The forthcoming Patient Safety Bill will make open disclosure mandatory.

Potential Harm

Under the latest policy, incidents where no harm results must be “generally” disclosed, and near misses “generally do not require open disclosure”.

However, staff must tell patients about such incidents if they could cause harm in the future.

Staff should begin the process of communication within 24 to 48 hours, or “as soon as is practical”, and should avoid technical language and jargon.

Open disclosure can only be deferred if a patient cannot be contacted, or if a doctor believes that disclosure could cause patients to harm themselves or others.

Staff should listen to the patient, “demonstrate empathy, kindness and compassion”, and where appropriate express an apology that is “sincere and personal to the patient”.

Improving Patient Safety by Learning From Mistakes

All healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, strive to avoid causing harm or potential harm to patients, but errors are inevitable.

Pharmapod is an easy-to-use platform that allows your pharmacy to simply and swiftly record any errors and integrate learning into your practice. Anonymised data is shared with other pharmacies, enabling other teams to enhance their practices and thus improving pharmacy safety culture worldwide.

Find out how your team can benefit from using the Pharmapod platform.

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