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The HSE Confidential Recipient for Vulnerable Persons said she was informed by HIQA that she could not send the Authority concerns about nursing homes due to data protection issues and these would be destroyed, according to correspondence sent in 2019 and obtained by the Medical Independent (MI) following a Freedom of Information request.
The Confidential Recipient, Ms Leigh Gath, acts as a voice for vulnerable older people and people with a disability. The position, which is appointed by the HSE but independent of the Executive, was created in the wake of the Áras Attracta scandal.
In February 2019, Ms Gath informed National Director of Quality Assurance and Verification Mr Patrick Lynch she had received a letter from HIQA “telling me I am possibly in breach of GDPR by sending them concerns” about nursing homes.
Under a memorandum of understanding with HIQA, the Confidential Recipient passes on concerns about private nursing homes. Concerns received by Ms Gath’s office about HSE nursing homes are investigated internally within the Executive.
Ms Gath stated that she had sent HIQA the names of the persons alleging abuse and the names of the nursing homes.
“They told me in the letter the concern I sent them would be destroyed. So I need direction here… ” stated Ms Gath in her email.
According to Ms Gath, the “concerns I have been receiving lately about private nursing homes mainly are about families being charged extortionate amounts of money each month, on top of the Fair Deal and 80 per cent of the person’s disability/pension benefits.”
A HIQA spokesperson told MI its remit extends across a wide range of health and social care services, including private nursing homes.
“We welcome information from the public, service users, family members, staff and others about their experiences of health and social care services, both public and private.
“The information received by the HSE’s Confidential Recipient, Ms Leigh Gath, in February 2019 was logged and reviewed by HIQA, in line with our processes for the receipt of unsolicited information.
“In line with the information-sharing protocol agreed between HIQA and Ms Gath in 2016, HIQA continues to receive referrals from Ms Gath in relation to private nursing homes and other services under our remit.
“As specified under GDPR, each individual who shares information with HIQA has to consider whether the appropriate consent has been given by the individual to whom the information pertains.”