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Confidentiality statements required of HSE pandemic group

Members of the HSE national health protection pandemic incident control team (PICT) are required to sign confidentiality statements, a spokesperson has confirmed.

“Confidentiality is an integral part of working in the health services and inherent in all employee roles,” outlined the spokesperson. “It is not unusual to ask groups/committees to agree confidentiality as part of the TORs [terms of reference] or through confidentiality agreements/statements as an addendum to the meeting proceedings.

“This request is likely to occur when we have cross-sector membership groups working with sensitive, commercially sensitive information and/or when guidance material and reports are under deliberation. We are unaware of any breaches of the confidentiality statements.”

PICT is accountable to the HSE Chief Clinical Officer through the National Clinical Director for Health Protection as Chairperson. “We are aware that the national standing oversight committee on cases and outbreaks of Covid-19 in high-risk settings [such as] food processing and construction industry sectors also signed confidentiality agreements,” added the spokesperson.

Confidentiality statements were introduced for members of the national public health emergency team (NPHET) in November 2020 following a review of procedures. A Department of Health spokesperson said the requirement to respect the principle of confidentiality had applied since the establishment of the NPHET in January 2020.

A HIQA spokesperson said members of all expert advisory groups (EAGs) advising the Health Technology Assessment Directorate – including the Covid-19 EAG – are asked to complete confidentiality declarations. “Taking action to deal with a breach in confidentiality has not been required to date,” said the spokesperson.

“The approach in the event of a breach in confidentiality would depend on the circumstance and would range from a conversation between the Chair of the EAG and the member to clarify responsibilities up to and including exclusion from the EAG if deemed necessary.”

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