The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has launched a National Open Disclosure Framework for the whole health and social sector.

This Framework sets out a consistent system-wide approach for our health and social care services to open communication following a patient safety incident. The Framework will apply beyond the Health Service Executive (HSE) to all private health and social care providers, as well as health regulators and educational bodies.

Launching the Framework, Minister Donnelly said, “when something goes wrong with a patient’s care, we must have an open, consistent, compassionate and timely approach to communicating with those patients and families. I want this Framework to embed good policies and practice for open disclosure. We must create a positive patient safety culture and foster trust in our health services and professionals.”

“Patients and their families rightly expect three things when something does go wrong: to be told honestly what happened; to be told what can be done to deal with any harm caused; and to know what will be done to prevent a recurrence to someone else. This first national Framework provides for a more consistent approach to this, and builds on existing HSE and other policies, as well as the views and experience of stakeholders and recommendations from the Independent Patient Safety Council.”

“This Framework complements the new Patient Safety Act in building a culture of patient safety that is focussed on continuous learning and improvement. Working together to embed a culture of open disclosure within the health services and across health and social care organisations will ensure a better, safer care experience for all patients and their families.”

The Framework was developed by the National Patient Safety Office following consultation with stakeholders and was informed by recommendations of the Independent Patient Safety Council. It sets out important principles and guidance to support the development, updating and implementation of policies and practice of open disclosure across health services and organisations.

Under the new Framework, all health and social care organisations will have to provide annual reports to the Minister on the implementation of the Framework as it applies to their different roles and functions.

The Framework was launched at the National Patient Safety Office (NPSO) Conference 2023 in Dublin Castle. Under a theme of ‘Nurturing a Positive Culture of Patient Safety – Listening, Learning and Responding’, the conference focusses on key issues such as open disclosure, clinical audit, and future priorities for patient safety from the perspective of patients and advocates, health professionals, regulators, educators and policy makers. The conference will also hear about the OECD’s work on patient safety, which includes a focus on patient engagement, culture and the economics of patient safety.

Chief Nursing Officer at the Department of Health, Rachel Kenna, said, “I welcome the publication today of the National Framework for Open Disclosure. This Framework will be a valuable addition to our wider collaborative work including safe staffing, professional regulation, professional education and training, workforce expansion and reform to promote and sustain a positive culture of patient safety. Our healthcare workforce is key in delivering safe, high-quality services and it is important that they are supported and enabled to drive positive change and contribute to ongoing learning and improvement.”

NPSO Director, Kate O’Flaherty, said, “the NPSO Conference provides an opportunity to renew our focus on the key challenges and opportunities for the next chapter of patient safety in Ireland. Much has been achieved in recent years to build a culture of openness, learning and improvement. This progress was often driven by traumatic events and experiences, and the voices and experiences of patients need to be central to the ongoing work to improve how we learn and respond to patient safety challenges. The publication today of a first National Framework for Open Disclosure will support all partners in the work to nurture a positive patient safety culture.”

Further Information about the Open Disclosure Framework can be found at: Patient Safety Legislation and Advocacy.