The new service offers a confidential helpline with experienced advocates on-hand to provide information and support to patients who want to make a formal complaint to the HSE about the care they experienced in a public hospital.
Launching the service at the National Patient Safety Conference, Minister Harris said: “Patient safety is the cornerstone of our health care system.
“I’ve met people across the country who have encountered difficulties in the Irish health service but have felt there was nowhere for them to turn.
“This service will offer patients a helping hand when they are unhappy with the care they receive. It is free, independent and run by specially trained patient advocates. I am confident it will offer a responsive, compassionate and supportive service to people when they are unhappy with their care.”
The Patient Advocacy Service, funded by the Department of Health and independent of the HSE, is a free and confidential service. The tender to provide the service was awarded in 2018 to the National Advocacy Service, which has many years’ experience of delivering advocacy in the public sector.
Louise Loughlin, National Manager of the Patient Advocacy Service, said: “We are delighted to be able to deliver a new independent patient advocacy service to support patients through the HSE complaints process.
“Our patient advocates will support people to understand and navigate the HSE complaints system.
“The National Advocacy Service has been providing advocacy services since 2011, and we are confident that this new service will be welcomed by the public and the wider health sector.
"We look forward to delivering this crucial new Patient Advocacy Service in the coming months”.
The Patient Advocacy Service confidential helpline, available 10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday, is 0818 293 003. To learn more, or submit an online query, visit www.patientadvocacyservice.ie
The Minister spoke at the conference, themed Learning from Investigations and Reviews.
Addressing an audience of healthcare professionals, regulators, policy makers, educators, researchers, health service managers and patient representatives, the Minister said: “This year’s theme offers us all an opportunity to reflect on what a safe health service requires – the ability of the health system, and all the people who make up that system, to learn the lessons of the past.
“We must develop a culture of open disclosure. We shouldn’t rush to judgement but instead take a measured, systematic and timely approach to getting to the heart of the matter. We should then share and apply what we learn to similar situations so that other patients are not harmed and that health professionals can be confident in the safety of the services they deliver.”
The Minister also spoke about the Patient Safety Bill, to be published in the coming weeks: “When this legislation is enacted, Ireland will have made another stride forward in terms of patient safety. I look forward to continuing to work with all of you on the legislative programme to support patient safety across the health services.”
In conclusion, the Minister emphasised the need to support all health service staff.
“This support is necessary, not just when things are going well and patients are happy, but also when patients are disappointed, and when incidents happen. Incidents may happen because of an error in the system that no one knew about, or a mistake by a healthcare professional, but we still need to support our colleagues in all situations.”