A note on protected disclosure for staff members of healthcare and social care organisations

What is Protected Disclosure?

Protected disclosure provides legal safeguards for people who want to report serious concerns they have about standards of safety or quality in Irish health and social care services – in other words possible “whistleblowers”.

It can be defined as any good faith communication that discloses or demonstrates an intention to disclose information that may provide evidence of improper conduct which raises a significant danger to public health or safety.

In certain circumstances, a disclosure made to certain bodies and persons about the standards of safety or quality of health and social services will qualify as a “protected disclosure”. In effect this means that if you report a concern which qualifies as a protected disclosure and you are then sued, amongst other things, damages may not be awarded against you for making that disclosure. In addition, if you are an employee of certain health service employers, you may not be penalised by your employer for having made the protected disclosure.

Why do we need Protected Disclosures?

Those who provide health and social care services should welcome feedback from those who use their services and their relatives and friends. As good employers they should listen to their staff and to any suggestions made to improve the service. Many service providers do behave in this manner.

However, situations can arise when people feel they are not free to say something important about a service. For example, a person might have grounds for believing that public money is being misused. This person may be exposed to civil legal action if the information is disclosed. An employee of a service provider may believe that they will be victimised by their employer if they discloses information that reflects badly on the service.

It is for reasons such as these that the Government has introduced legislation that provides legal safeguards for “whistleblowers”. This new level of legal protection is also aimed at encouraging a culture of openness and accountability throughout the health and social services so that employees and members of the public can report any concerns they have in relation to the safety and quality of health and social care services being provided in Ireland.

How do I make a Protected Disclosure?

It is important to realise that there are different criteria for what qualifies as a protected disclosure. This depends on:

  • your particular circumstances – are you a health service employee or a member of the public?
  • the organisation or individual about which you are making the disclosure
  • the organisation or individual to which you are making the disclosure.

In general, in order for your disclosure to qualify as a protected disclosure, the person making the disclosure must:

  • act in good faith
  • have reasonable grounds for believing what is disclosed
  • follow the procedures laid down in the legislation for making the disclosure.

While the above is a summary of how to make a disclosure which will qualify as a protected disclosure, if you wish to see more information about these grounds then you may want to read the relevant section contained in the legislation.

The legal protection for people making protected disclosures does not apply if the person who makes the disclosure either knows or is reckless as to whether the disclosure is false, misleading, frivolous or vexatious. It is also a criminal offence to make a disclosure which you know or reasonably ought to know is false.

Where should I report my concern?

Certain statutory organisations in the health and social care sector will have an officer or officers to whom protected disclosures can be made depending on the circumstances.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has appointed a person to deal with protected disclosures. This person will investigate all disclosures about the HSE or any of the services provided by or on behalf of the HSE. They may refer it for investigation by another body, including the Garda Síochána where they believe that a criminal offence has been committed.

To contact the HSE about protected disclosures, please contact:

HSE Authorised Person

PO Box 11571

Dublin 2

Phone: 01 662 6984

Some voluntary bodies, such as the voluntary hospitals, may decide to have their own officer to deal with protected disclosures. However, other voluntary providers, if they receive funding from the HSE, will be covered by the HSE’s officer.

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) can receive protected disclosures in relation to standards of safety or quality in Irish health and social care services in certain circumstances. For more information, please consult the HIQA website.

The Mental Health Commission and the Inspector of Mental Health Services can receive protected disclosures in relation to standards of safety or quality in mental health services in certain circumstances. For more information, please consult the website of the Mental Health Commission.

Those bodies that regulate individual professionals working in the health and social care sector will appoint people to deal with protected disclosures. You should consult The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland, the Dental Council, CORU – the Health and Social Care Professional Council, the Medical Council and the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland for more information on how to make a protected disclosure to a professional regulatory body.

The Irish Medicines Board can also receive protected disclosures in certain circumstances. For more information, please consult the website of the Irish Medicines Board.

 


 

Nóta faoi nochtadh cosanta do bhaill foirne eagraíochtaí cúram sláinte agus cúraim shóisialta

Cad is Nochtadh Cosanta ann?

Cuireann nochtadh cosanta cosaintí dlíthiúla ar fáil do dhaoine ar mian leo tuairisc a thabhairt faoi ábhair thromchúiseacha imní atá acu faoi chaighdeáin sábháilteachta nó faoi chaighdeáin cháilíochta sna seirbhísí sláinte agus cúraim shóisialta in Éirinn. Lucht séidte feadóg a thugann Béarlóirí orthu. Sceithirí an focal Gaeilge.

Is féidir sainmhíniú a thabhairt air mar aon chumarsáid a dhéantar le hintinn mhaith a nochtann, nó a léiríonn rún chun faisnéis a nochtadh, a d’fhéadfadh fianaise a sholáthar faoi iompar míchuí a chruthaíonn contúirt shuntasach do shláinte nó do shábháilteacht an phobail.

In imthosca áirithe, bheadh nochtadh a dhéanfaí le comhlachtaí agus le daoine áirithe faoi na caighdeáin sábháilteachta nó faoi chaighdeán na seirbhísí sláinte agus sóisialta incháilithe mar “nochtadh cosanta”. Is éard a chiallaíonn sé seo go bunúsach ná má thuairiscíonn tú ábhar imní atá incháilithe mar nochtadh cosanta agus má dhéantar agra i do leith ansin, i measc rudaí eile, ní féidir damáistí a dhámhachtain i d’aghaidh de bharr an nochtadh sin a dhéanamh. Ina theannta sin, má tá tú i d’fhostaí ag fostóirí seirbhíse sláinte áirithe, ní féidir le d’fhostóir pionós a ghearradh ort toisc nochtadh cosanta a bheith déanta agat.

Cén fáth a bhfuil gá le Nochtadh Cosanta?

Ba cheart go gcuirfeadh daoine a chuireann seirbhísí sláinte agus cúraim shóisialta ar fáil fáilte roimh aiseolas ó dhaoine a úsáideann a gcuid seirbhísí agus ó ghaolta agus ó chairde na ndaoine sin. Más fostóirí maithe iad ba cheart dóibh éisteacht lena mball foirne agus leis na moltaí a dhéanann siad chun an tseirbhís a fheabhsú. Is iomaí soláthraí seirbhíse a dhéanann é sin.

Féadann sé tarlú uaireanta go measann daoine nach bhfuil an tsaoirse acu rud éigin tábhachtach a rá faoi sheirbhís. D’fhéadfadh údar a bheith ag duine, mar shampla, a chreidiúint nach raibh airgead poiblí á úsáid mar ba cheart. D’fhéadfaí caingean dlí a thionscnamh in aghaidh an duine sin dá nochtfaí an fhaisnéis. D’fhéadfadh fostaithe atá ag obair do sholáthraí seirbhíse a chreidiúint go ndéanfadh an fostóir íospartach díobh dá nochtfaidís faisnéis a tharraingeodh droch-cháil ar an tseirbhís.

Is ar chúiseanna den sórt sin a thug an Rialtas isteach reachtaíocht chun cosaint dlí a thabhairt do sceithirí. Tá an leibhéal nua maidir le cosaint dhlíthiúil dírithe freisin ar chultúr na hoscailteachta agus na cuntasachta a spreagadh ar fud na seirbhísí sláinte agus sóisialta chun go bhféadfaidh fostaithe agus baill an phobail aon ábhar imní atá acu a thuairisciú maidir le sábháilteacht agus caighdeán na seirbhísí sláinte agus cúraim shóisialta atá á gcur ar fáil in Éirinn.

Conas is féidir liom Nochtadh Cosanta a dhéanamh?

Tá sé tábhachtach a thuiscint go bhfuil critéir éagsúla ann maidir le cad atá incháilithe mar nochtadh cosanta. Braitheann sé sin ar na nithe seo a leanas:

  • na himthosca áirithe a bhaineann leatsa – an fostaí de cheann de na seirbhísí sláinte thú nó ball den phobal?
  • an eagraíocht nó an duine aonair faoina bhfuil tú ag déanamh an nochta
  • an eagraíocht nó an duine aonair dá bhfuil tú ag déanamh an nochta.

Go ginearálta, d’fhonn go mbeidh do nochtadh incháilithe mar nochtadh cosanta, ní mór duit:

  • gníomhú le hintinn mhaith
  • bunús réasúnta a bheith agat an rud atá á nochtadh agat a chreidiúint
  • na nósanna imeachta atá leagtha síos sa reachtaíocht maidir le nochtadh a dhéanamh a leanúint.

Cé gur achoimre an méid atá thuas ar conas nochtadh a dhéanamh a cháileofar mar nochtadh cosanta, más mian leat tuilleadh eolais a fháil faoi na forais sin is féidir leat an t-alt ábhartha sa reachtaíocht a léamh.

Ní bhíonn feidhm ag an gcosaint dhlíthiúil i gcás daoine a dhéanann nochtadh cosanta más rud é go bhfuil a fhios ag an té a dhéanann an nochtadh gur nochtadh bréagach, míthreorach, suaibhreosach nó cráiteach é nó go bhfuil sé nó sí meargánta i dtaobh é a bheith amhlaidh. Lena chois sin is cion coiriúil nochtadh a dhéanamh a bhfuil a fhios agat, nó gur cheart le réasún go mbeadh a fhios agat, go bhfuil sé bréagach.

Cén áit ar cheart dom m’ábhar imní a thuairisciú?

Bíonn oifigeach nó oifigigh ag eagraíochtaí reachtúla áirithe san earnáil chúraim sláinte agus shóisialta ar féidir nochtadh cosanta a dhéanamh leo ach braithfidh sé sin ar na himthosca.

Tá duine ceaptha ag Feidhmeannacht na Seirbhíse Sláinte (FSS) le déileáil le nochtadh cosanta. Déanfaidh an té sin iniúchadh ar gach nochtadh faoi FSS nó faoi aon cheann de na seirbhísí a chuireann FSS ar fáil nó a chuirtear ar fáil thar ceann na heagraíochta. Féadfaidh siad é a chur ar aghaidh chuig eagraíocht eile, lena n-áirítear an Garda Síochána, lena iniúchadh má chreideann siad go bhfuil cion coiriúil déanta.

Chun teagmháil a dhéanamh le FSS faoi nochtadh cosanta, téigh i dteagmháil le:

Duine Údaraithe FSS

Bosca PO 11571

Baile Átha Cliath 2

Teileafón: 01 662 6984

D’fhéadfadh roinnt eagraíochtaí deonacha, mar na hospidéil dheonacha, socrú a dhéanamh oifigeach dá gcuid féin a bheith acu le déileáil le nochtadh cosanta. Mar sin féin, i gcás soláthraithe deonacha eile, má fhaigheann siad maoiniú ó FSS tá siad clúdaithe ag oifigeach FSS.

Is féidir leis an Údarás um Fhaisnéis agus Cáilíocht Sláinte (ÚFCS) glacadh le nochtadh cosanta maidir le caighdeáin sábháilteachta nó caighdeáin cháilíochta na seirbhísí sláinte agus cúraim shóisialta in Éirinn in imthosca áirithe. Féach ar láithreán gréasáin ÚFCS chun tuilleadh eolais a fháil.

Is féidir leis an gCoimisiún Meabhair-Shláinte agus Cigire na Seirbhísí Meabhair-Shláinte glacadh le nochtadh cosanta maidir le caighdeáin sábháilteachta nó caighdeáin cháilíochta sna seirbhísí meabhairshláinte in imthosca áirithe. Féach ar láithreán gréasáin an Choimisiúin Meabhair-Shláinte chun tuilleadh eolais a fháil.

Ceapfaidh na comhlachtaí a rialaíonn gairmithe aonair a oibríonn san earnáil sláinte agus cúraim shóisialta daoine chun déileáil le nochtadh cosanta. Ba cheart duit dul i gcomhairle leis an mBord Altranais, leis an gComhairle Fiaclóireachta, le CORU – an Chomhairle um Ghairmithe Sláinte agus Cúraim Shóisialaigh, le Comhairle na nDochtúirí Leighis agus Cumann Cógaiseoirí na hÉireann chun tuilleadh eolais a fháil faoi conas nochtadh cosanta a dhéanamh le comhlacht gairmiúil rialála.

Is féidir le Bord Leigheasra na hÉireann glacadh le nochtadh cosanta in imthosca áirithe. Féach ar láithreán gréasáin Bhord Leigheasra na hÉireann chun tuilleadh eolais a fháil.


Page last updated: 17 May 2012