Government to Establish Interdepartmental Working Group to examine the rising cost of health-related claims

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Stephen Donnelly
Stephen Donnelly

Health Minister, Stephen Donnelly, has set up an Interdepartmental Working Group “to examine the rising cost of health-related claims and consider mechanisms to reduce costs.”

Membership of the Group, which is chaired independently by Dr Rhona Mahony, Consultant Obstetrician and Specialist in Fetal Medicine at the National Maternity Hospital Dublin, is from across key Government Departments and Agencies.

The Department of Health said the Group would examine the rising cost of clinical negligence claims in the health system, with a particular focus on high value claims, and identify measures that could be put in place to reduce future costs.

“The Group’s considerations will include developing a plan to implement risk management and other initiatives to reduce the occurrence of adverse incidents and to recommend measures to address patient concerns following the occurrence of adverse incidents, taking into account measures suggested by Dr Scally in his final implementation review report.”

Minister Donnelly said, “The most effective way to manage the cost of claims against the HSE is to minimise incidents of avoidable harm. While the Department and the HSE work continuously to monitor and improve patient safety, reduce incidents of harm and to minimise risk, I am keen to take further action on this.” 

The Interdepartmental Working Group will examine the rising cost of clinical negligence claims in the health system, with a particular focus on high value claims, and identify measures that could be put in place to reduce future costs. The Department said that in particular, the Group would:

  1. Assess the reasons why costs of claims were continuing to rise.
  2. Develop a plan to implement risk management and other initiatives to reduce the occurrence of adverse incidents, particularly in the category of high value claims (over €4m), that could improve outcomes and reduce costs in the future (consider engagement with, inter alia, the National Neonatal Encephalopathy Action Group, which is a collaboration between SCA, NPSO and HSE and is examining strategies to mitigate risk relating to preventable birth injuries).
  3. Recommend measures to address patient concerns following incidents, (e.g., disclosure procedures, trauma counselling, provision of supports) that will reduce the need for patients to initiate legal proceedings. In considering this, the group should give consideration to those measures suggested by Dr. Scally in his final implementation review report published in November 2022.
  4. Receive updates on the implementation of the recommendations set out in the Report of the “Expert Group to Review the Law of Torts and the Management of Clinical Negligence Claims” (the ‘Meenan Report’), and Civil Justice reform measures being undertaken in the Department of Justice where relevant to the issue of reducing the cost of HSE related claims and identify actions to accelerate these reforms and maximise their impact on health claims.
  5. Examine the health system’s involvement in the claims process, in particular its role in the provision of evidence/medical records in the course of discovery with a view to streamlining processes that could reduce the administrative cost of claims, including but not limited to legal costs.
  6. Consider the policy and health system approach to Mass claims, including examining whether there is scope for the Department/HSE to improve or standardise its approach when dealing with calls for redress and inquiries.

The Group will examine these issues only within the parameters set out in the Terms of Reference, as approved by Government.