A major conference on medical and clinical negligence being held in Dublin, entitled Clinical Negligence and Access to Justice, has heard calls for the introduction of a legal 'Duty of Candour' in Irish hospitals and medical centres.
Introducing such a 'Duty of Candour' would mean that any organisation providing healthcare would be legally required to be open and honest with patients or their next of kin when any harm is caused to a patient.
This conference has been organised by Action Against Medical Accidents (AvMA) supported by Patient Focus. AvMA is a leading patient charity that is campaigning for the introduction of a legal 'Duty of Candour' in the UK.
In excess of 4 million patients are admitted to or treated in Irish hospitals per annum. International evidence indicates that approximately 4% of these are injured due to medical accidents, equaling 160,000 patients injured every year in Irish hospitals. It is therefore the case that many more people are killed or permanently disabled in Irish hospitals due to medical accidents than are injured in road traffic accidents.
Peter Walsh, Chief Executive of AvMA, commented, "It is vital that there is an informed debate in Ireland about improving access to justice for injured patients and creating a more open learning culture to improve patient safety. This charity has a wealth of experience from its work on these issues in the UK which we are committed to sharing with our Irish colleagues.
"Today's conference will hopefully kick-start work in Ireland on a legal Duty of Candour when things go wrong in healthcare and fairer ways of compensating injured patients and their families."
The need for access to justice for those who have been affected by clinical or medical negligence is essential. However, patients and their families are often left with unanswered questions, no admission of liability and no apology from healthcare providers when negligence occurs.
Jim Reilly, speaking on behalf of patient advocacy group Patient Focus, commented, "Based on the international evidence there may be up to 8,000 deaths per year as a result of adverse incidents in Irish hospitals."
"A major culture change is required within the Irish healthcare system to ensure that patient safety is to the fore in everyone's mind. There needs to be more open communication with patients and their families and the leaders in Irish healthcare should foster a culture of patient safety," he concluded