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Memo on ‘Protection of Life’ notifications was retracted by HSE

In a memo on 5 March 2015 to Hospital Group CEOs, Mr Liam Woods had stated: “All notifications under the Act are to be notified to my office, The Chief Medical Officer in the Department of Health will be notified by my office of the required details within the 28-
day timeframe.”

However, a HSE spokesperson told the Medical Independent (MI) that the content of the memo was “subsequently clarified” by Mr Woods in February 2016. This dispatch stated: “As mandated in the legislation, all forms must be fully completed by the relevant hospital, signed appropriately, and forwarded within the 28-day framework directly to the Minister of Health, as outlined in the Guidance Document and as required by the Act.”

To avoid confusion and simplify the process, “it is no longer necessary to forward a copy to my office, as previously requested”.

According to the HSE spokesperson, this memo was sent by Mr Woods when he realised that the instruction in his original memo “was not in keeping with the legislation”. This was not prompted by a request from the Department of Health, added the spokesperson.

The memo of 5 March 2015 was released to MI under Freedom of Information (FoI) legislation.

Despite repeated requests since late 2015, the HSE had refused to confirm that it had sought a change in the notifications process.

The issue was flagged in March 2015 meeting minutes of the RCSI Hospitals Group’s Executive Council, which referenced a “reporting mechanism change” pertaining to the Act.

A Department of Health guidance document for healthcare professionals does not contain advice to the effect that notifications be sent to the HSE, for subsequent dispatch to the Minister.

In January, MI submitted an FoI request to the HSE seeking documents on matters related to the Act, including an apparent reporting change. The HSE responded that records could not be located but subsequently advised that relevant records had been found, including the memo of 5 March 2015.

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