Press Release

Public Consultations on Proposed Health Information Bill

The Department of Health and Children, in co-operation with the HSE and the Health Services National Partnership Forum, held a major consultation exercise on the proposed Health Information Bill today (20 January). This involved co-ordinated facilitated workshops with around 100 members of the public drawn from diverse backgrounds, ages and interests. It is intended that the Health Information Bill will deal with the collection, use, sharing, storage and disclosure of personal health information as well as the rights of individuals in relation to their health information.

In commenting on the consultations, the Minister said: “From the outset, we have recognised the importance of consulting widely on the Health Information Bill. Given the scope and nature of the Bill, we considered it essential that we established, as fully as we could, the views of those who work in the health services and the public. Over the past several months, we have done that through a series of measures.”

In June 2008, the Department advertised for submissions on the Health Information Bill and received over 60 from a wide range of bodies including hospitals, research and teaching institutions, health professional and consumer bodies and government agencies. The consultative workshops taking place today have been designed specifically to ascertain the views of a cross section of individual citizens on what they see as the major issues for the Bill.

The main purposes of the Bill will be:

  • to provide clear legal rules to enable information –in whatever form- to be used to best effect to enhance medical care and patient safety throughout the health system,
  • to strengthen patient rights in relation to their information,
  • to strengthen patient rights in relation to their information,
  • to facilitate the greater use of information technologies for better delivery of patient services, and
  • to underpin an effective information governance structure for the health system generally.

The Minister stated “The Health Information Bill is an important and complex piece of legislation and a key element of the Health Reform Programme. Its central objective is to facilitate the more effective use of information to improve healthcare outcomes while ensuring that the privacy of personal health information is appropriately respected. It affects everyone as we all, over the course of our lives, access a range of health and personal social services”.

The Minister continued: “we rightly expect the information we provide to those in the public, private and voluntary health sectors to be used for legitimate purposes only and to be appropriately protected from unauthorised access and disclosure. Accordingly, the Bill will seek to build public confidence in how the health services manage patient information both for individual patient care and the achievement of wider health system goals.”

According to Mary Culliton, HSE’s Head of Consumer Affairs, “Today has been organised to do as we have promised to do – to listen to the views of the public in developing Policy and to ask our citizens about the quality of the services provided. Every effort has been made to consult with a cross section of the public and people who use health services and this contribution will ensure the success of the Health Information Bill”

“The Health Services National Partnership Forum is delighted to work with the Department of Health and Children and the HSE to facilitate members of the public in giving their views on the very important issues around health information and the proposed Health Information Bill”commented Seosamh Ó Maolalaí, Partnership Facilitator with the Health Services National Partnership Forum.

Attending the consultative workshops, Gina Plunkett stated “I’m encouraged by the approach taken by the Department of Health and Children and the HSE in holding this event. Our views are being actively sought and listened to and I’m confident that those views will inform the consultation process associated with the Bill. This type of event helps break down the ‘us and them’ barrier”.

Also attending, Odhrán Allen commented “This consultation is an opportunity to understand the proposals in the heads of the Health Information Bill and to debate and reflect on the issues it seeks to address. The health information of all citizens must be protected and respected. An issue of particular importance for gay and lesbian people is confidentiality – that personal information about one’s sexual orientation is treated confidentially by health professionals and responded to respectfully.”

More information on the public consultation process associated with the Bill, including a Discussion Document on the Bill and an accompanying Audit Paper setting out relevant key international instruments, national laws and guidelines relating to health information for Ireland and selected other countries is available on the Department of Health’s website.