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HSE CEO asks Chair of serious incident panel to ‘review function’

By Catherine Reilly - 17th Mar 2024


The HSE CEO has asked the new Chair of the national independent review panel (NIRP) to review the panel’s function. A HSE spokesperson told the Medical Independent (MI) that this work was “ongoing”.

The HSE commissions the NIRP to conduct “independent reviews” across community health and social care where there are major concerns about how services managed the care of an individual(s).

The NIRP is “part of” the HSE, but “independent of all HSE operations”, according to the Executive’s website.

In late 2023, Ms Pamela Fagan was appointed as the new NIRP Chair following a process conducted through the Public Appointments Service. She has over 20 years of experience in implementing quality and patient safety management systems within health and social care organisations in Ireland and Australia.

The HSE stated that, on privacy grounds, it could not comment on whether previous NIRP Chair Ms Bernie McNally had provided a reason for her departure. MI awaited comment from the HSE on whether the NIRP Chair is a salaried role.

The NIRP has completed five reviews since its first was commissioned in 2017. There is currently one review ongoing.

According to correspondence seen by RTÉ, Ms McNally informed HSE senior management in 2022 that HSE managers had sought to interfere with the NIRP’s work during its review into the ‘Emily’ case. ‘Emily’ was a resident at a HSE community nursing unit in 2020 when she was raped by staff member ‘Mr Z’.

In parallel to the NIRP review, a separate safeguarding review was undertaken to identify if any further reportable incidents may have occurred. Safeguarding concerns were referred to An Garda Síochána in respect of 21 of 32 residents’ files reviewed. However, the external expert leading the team said its work was prematurely ended by the HSE.

In July 2023, HSE CEO Mr Bernard Gloster requested another external safeguarding expert, Ms Jackie McIlroy, to advise if a further examination of individual records was required to identify past harm.

In September, Ms McIlroy’s report found that the HSE’s decision not to review the remaining files in an initial cohort of 79 residents was a missed opportunity.

Ms McIlroy recommended an examination of records spanning the period of Mr Z’s employment. She advised that a decision to examine resident notes should be made in collaboration with residents and their nearest relative/person with the necessary legal authority where appropriate.

A HSE spokesperson told MI it was undertaking preparatory work for the next phase of the file review. “In parallel the team established to support residents and their families is continuing to provide support to those people,” they added.

The preparatory work, which the HSE described as “complex and time-consuming”, was expected to be completed in the coming weeks, stated the spokesperson last month.

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