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However, the HSE has failed to update its guidance on protected disclosures to reference strong whistleblowing legislation that commenced in July 2014. HSE guidance continues to cite measures under the Health Act 2007.
Transparency International (TI) Ireland has described the severe penalties in the Health Act for making a disclosure one ‘ought to know’ is false as generating a “chilling effect” on prospective whistleblowers. The stipulation that a disclosure be made in “good faith” is also considered as discouraging. The Protected Disclosures Act 2014 does not include such features.
In December 2015, Assistant Secretary at DPER Mr William Beausang informed a senior official at the Department of Health that its advice to the HSE “continues to be that they should stand down references to whistleblowing under the Health Act as an alternative regime to the Protected Disclosures Act, as the Health Act model is superseded by the 2014 Act”.
He said the provisions of the 2014 Act provide a “comprehensive and uniform model for all workers in the State”. Continued references by the HSE “to ‘good faith’ reporting and other elements of the Health Act regime are likely to serve as a disincentive to workers in the health sector making protected disclosures”.
Mr Beausang was responding to a query on whether the DPER considered that one of the disclosure types in the Health Act remained to be made under that Act.
The Department of Health has identified limited circumstances where some Health Act provisions may remain in play. However, it has recognised that disclosures covered by both Acts are applicable to the newer legislation. In late 2014, a senior Department official advised the HSE that it needed to update guidance to reflect the Protected Disclosures Act.
A Department spokesperson told MI that the HSE promotes both laws. The Executive’s Quality Assurance Verification Division is developing plans for “widespread dissemination” of whistleblowing procedures.
See news analysis ‘A failure to disclose'