Report highlights concern over standard of Irish health and care services

The Private Hospitals Association has welcomed plans to extend HIQA's remit to private facilities

Report highlights concern over standard of Irish health and care services

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Updated 14:35

A new survey has revealed serious concerns over the standard of care available in Ireland’s hospitals and nursing homes.

A RED C poll of over 1,000 people commissioned by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) found that almost two thirds of people (63%) have witnessed sub-standard health and social care services over the past five years.

HIQA has warned that it is particularly concerned over the significant number of people that witnessed physical or emotional abuse.

Nearly half of the respondents highlighted poor provision of services in public hospitals; while one-in-five witnessed problems at nursing homes and homecare services.

Some 36% said they had witnessed physical or emotional abuse in nursing homes.

The authority warned that there is widespread misunderstanding of service oversight – with the vast majority of people mistakenly believing private hospitals, primary care centres and homecare services are subject to independent regulation and monitoring.

With the Grace case still fresh in the public's mind, HIQA CEO Phelim Quinn told Newstalk that now is the time to introduce legislation to protect those most at risk of abuse within the system:

“I think there is a lot of work to be done in relation to improving the experience of people within our acute health care sector,” he said. “This particular poll, in conjunction with the new national patient experience survey, should give us significant information to inform policy and to improve services over the next three years.”

Robust regulation

The Minister for Health, Simon Harris

The Health Minister, Simon Harris said the findings of the poll highlight the need for continued independent regulation within the health service.

Minister Harris said HIQA's role in recent years has proven extremely beneficial:

“Going into disability settings, going into nursing homes, going into our hospitals and uncovering and unearthing at times very difficult situation but [...] also promoting really good practice,” he said.

“I think the poll today shows that we still have a way to go in relation to this.

“I am very pleased as Minister for Health that we have such a robust regulator and I think the poll today shows that we need to continue to build on regulation.”

An overwhelming 95% of people agreed that there ought to be clear accountability when standards in health care drop, according to the poll.

Respondents said it was most important that patients and families are treated with dignity and respect at all times, that privacy is maintained and that there are clear standards and guidance in place to provide safe and effective care.

“Unfortunately, it is still too common for the public to witness the poor provision of health and social care services,” said Mr Quinn.

“Given the results, there may be some surprise among the public to discover that there is currently no independent regulation of private hospitals or homecare services.

“Indeed, the poll shows that when informed that these services are not independently regulated, there is widespread support for it to be introduced.”

He warned that the safe and effective service the public deserves can only be achieved if proper regulation is extended.

"I think of particular concern are the regulation of private health care providers and the regulation of home care services to what are very, very vulnerable groups," he said.

The Private Hospitals Association has said member hospitals are required to maintain "very rigorous standards supervised by an internationally recognized healthcare accreditation body."

The association's chief executive, Simon Nugent said compliance with a "broad range of health care standards, including HIQA standards is independently monitored and assessed."

The association has consistently argued that regulations should apply equally to public and private hospitals and we support the Government’s proposed patient safety legislation which will extend HIQA’s remit to regulate private hospitals," he said.

"We are also working with the Department, HSE and HIQA to develop a hospital licensing system which would apply to all hospitals in Ireland."

The poll was carried out on HIQA’s 10th anniversary to help inform its future work.