Minister Harney Introduces New Statutory Complaints System from 1 January 2007 – Complaints Regulations under Part 9 of the Health Act 2004
The Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney TD, announced the making of Regulations to fully implement, from 1 January 2007, the statutory complaints process provided for in Part 9 of the Health Act 2004.
The Minister stated: “The new complaints system is another important element of the health reform programme. The Regulations set out the procedures for complaints to the Health Service Executive and service providers in relation to health and personal social services. The new complaints system is designed to ensure high and uniform standards of complaints management throughout the public health system.”
The statutory framework in the 2004 Act has three main elements:
- a complaint will be investigated by a Complaints Officer appointed by the HSE or service provider, as appropriate;
- provision for the complainant to request a review of any recommendation made by a Complaints Officer; and
- reviews to be carried out by a Review Officer appointed by the Executive or a person to whom the Executive has assigned its review functions.
Separately, and independently, a complainant is also entitled, under the framework, to refer his or her complaint to the Ombudsman or Ombudsman for Children, as appropriate, where he or she is dissatisfied with the recommendation made or any of the steps taken by the Executive or service provider in relation to the complaint.
The Minister added: “I considered it particularly important that the Regulations underpinning the new complaints process should be guided by a wide ranging consultative process involving health sector organizations and consumer and representative groups. Accordingly, my Department commissioned a major consultation project, carried out by Trinity College Dublin, which was ongoing throughout most of 2005 and completed this year. The aim was to establish a shared understanding of the requirements and priorities attaching to the introduction of the new complaints process. It also provided an opportunity for those experienced in complaints management and consumer advocacy to contribute to the Regulations”.
The Regulations set out the requirements to be followed by persons when making complaints, the procedures to be followed by the HSE and service providers in investigating complaints (including provision for informal resolution), the nature of the review process, implementation of recommendations, and importantly, public awareness and practical assistance obligations to help complainants placed on the Executive and service providers. The Regulations will facilitate the development of best practice within the HSE and by service providers in line with the overall statutory framework created by Part 9 of the 2004 Act.
From 1 January 2007, persons adversely affected by an action either of the HSE or service providers providing services on its behalf will be able to avail of the new system and to have their complaints dealt with in accordance with the Regulations.
The Minister said “I am committed to providing person centred services. I see the new complaints system as an important measure for all users of our health and personal social services so that anyone with a complaint can have it investigated quickly and effectively.”