Written answers

Thursday, 15 July 2021

Photo of Seán HaugheySeán Haughey (Dublin Bay North, Fianna Fail)
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455. To ask the Minister for Health if he will extend the remit of HIQA in order that it can investigate specific complaints regarding individual private nursing homes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [33173/21]

Photo of Mary ButlerMary Butler (Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) is an independent authority established to drive high-quality and safe care for people using our health and social care services in Ireland. HIQA’s role is to develop standards, inspect and review health and social care services and support informed decisions on how services are delivered. HIQA's role includes monitoring the safety and quality of health services and investigating as necessary serious concerns about the health and welfare of people who use these services.

HIQA, is the statutory independent regulator in place for the nursing home sector, whether a HSE managed or a private nursing home. The Authority, established under the Health Act 2007, has significant and wide-ranging powers up to and including withdrawing the registration of a nursing home facility, which means that it can no longer operate as a service provider. This responsibility is underpinned by a comprehensive quality framework comprising of Registration Regulations, Care and Welfare Regulations and National Quality Standards.

HIQA does not investigate individual complaints, however the Department understands from HIQA that concerns it receives are used to inform its inspection and monitoring processes, informing the risk profile for the service and where appropriate are passed on to the relevant bodies.

In accordance with Regulation 34 of S.I. No. 415/2013 - Health Act 2007 (Care and Welfare of Residents in Designated Centres for Older People) Regulations 2013, registered providers of nursing home care are obliged to provide an accessible and effective complaints procedure. The registered provider is required to make each resident and their family aware of the complaints procedure as soon as is practicable following admission.

The Office of the Ombudsman can examine complaints about the actions of a range of public bodies including complaints relating to the administrative actions of private nursing homes. Regulatory bodies such as the Medical Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland also has a role in the investigation of individual complaints. The appropriate pathway for making a complaint is dependent on the particular issue of concern.

The Department of Health is currently working on a policy and legislative framework to provide a fit for purpose streamlined and consistent clinical complaints and patient safety incidents legislative scheme that meets the needs of patients and families across health services. This work will include legislation, regulation, and policy and will seek to incorporate a Programme for Government 2020 commitment to expand the remit of the Office of the Ombudsman to consider clinical decisions in health and social care complaints.

In August 2020, the Nursing Home Expert Panel (NHEP) report was published which contained 86 recommendations, across 15 thematic areas, many of which will require legislative measures to implement. HIQA also submitted a paper outlining a number of suggested amendments to the legislation governing the operation of designated centres for older people.

Having regard to the NHEP recommendations, learning from the pandemic and HIQA's suggested regulatory enhancements, the Minister for Health and I approved a two-phased approach to examining the legislation with a view to proposing enhancements to the primary and secondary legislation governing nursing homes, with a primary focus on enforcement, governance, oversight and certain regulatory areas including infection prevention and control. It is expected that, subject to Government approval draft Heads of Bill will be published by the end of the year.

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