Press Release

Minister Harris announces public consultation on new Patient Safety Complaints and Advocacy Policy

Minister for Health Simon Harris, TD today announced a Public Consultation on the development of a national Patient Safety Complaints and Advocacy Policy, which aims to improve how our health service responds to complaints and to advance the Programme for Partnership Government commitment to establish a national patient advocacy service.

This policy is part of a programme of Patient Safety reforms being led by the National Patient Safety Office in the Department of Health. These reforms are focused on patient safety legislation including open disclosure and licensing of our hospitals, extending the clinical effectiveness agenda and establishing a patient safety surveillance system. The purpose of the Patient Safety Complaints and Advocacy Policy will be to give national leadership and set direction for policy and legislation in this area.

Speaking today, the Minister said, “Patient Safety is at the core of our health service and a vital element is to ensure a person centred approach where patients have a strong voice in the planning and delivery of our health services. Feedback from patients which highlights both good and poor practice provides learning for our service and a focus on where we need to improve. I want to ensure that we have a responsive, compassionate and supportive approach to assisting people when they are unhappy with their care.”

The Consultation is open until 22nd June 2017 and is available online at

The Minister added, “My Department wants to hear all opinions. This is a chance for all citizens to make their voices heard and to influence the development of this Patient Safety Complaints and Advocacy Policy”.

Patients and their families, the general public, carers, voluntary organisations, health and social care providers, health staff and representative organisations are invited to give their views on what is working well, what is not working so well and suggestions for improvements in relation to complaints and advocacy. We would like to hear what needs to be included in the overall Patient Safety Complaints and Advocacy Policy to support patients, service users and staff.


Notes to Editor

Further details on the development of a new Patient Safety Complaints and Advocacy Policy are available at

Current Definitions

Complaint means a complaint made under this Part 9 of the Health Act 2004 about any action of the HSE or a service provider that –

  1. It is claimed, does not accord with fair or sound administrative practice, and
  2. Adversely affects the person by whom or on whose behalf the complaint is made

Healthcare Complaints Advocacy / Support Service – For the purpose of completing the consultation, Complaints Advocacy / Support Service can be defined as a service to help and empower the complainant in the healthcare complaint process. This may range from offering of information or advice in relation to preparing documentation for a complaint, to attending meetings with the complainant, to enabling them to articulate their needs, and/or involve support after complaint was made.

Advocacy is the practice of an individual acting independently of the service provider, on behalf of, and in the interests of a service user, who may feel unable to represent themselves. (National Standards for Safer, Better Healthcare 2012).

About the National Patient Safety Office

  • The National Patient Safety Office (NPSO) in the Department of Health was established in December 2016. The NPSO will oversee a programme of patient safety measures.
  • The programme of patient safety centres on a number of initiatives including this consultation. A consultation report is planned to be published towards the end of the year.
  • The NPSO is also progressing a programme of legislation for example Open Disclosure and a Patient Safety Licensing Bill to license public and private hospitals.

Current Complaints and Advocacy Legislation and Standards

  • The Health Act 2004 and Health Act (Complaints) Regulations 2006 established a legislative base for health service users to make a complaint regarding all public healthcare.
  • Your Service, Your Say (2009) is the HSE’s national complaints policy and complies with legislation. This is currently being updated by the HSE.
  • The national healthcare standards, Safer, Better Healthcare (2012) and National Standards for Safer Better Maternity Services (2016), developed by the Health Information and Quality Authority contain standards for complaints and advocacy. The standards form the basis for HIQA inspections and reports.
  • Specific complaints and advocacy legislation has also been enacted for clients of designated centres – including older persons, vulnerable children and adults with a disability, children in care and mental health designated centres.

Current information on Where and How to complain about healthcare and social care services

The website provides information on how to make a complaint or give feedback about health and social care services in Ireland. It includes information on how to complain to service providers, Ombudsmen and professional regulators, as well as information on how to raise concerns with Regulators such as HIQA or the Mental Health Commission. The website also provides detail on advocacy services that will help you make a complaint.