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The introduction of confidentiality agreements for members of the expert advisory group (EAG) of the national public health emergency team (NPHET) was discussed earlier this summer. However, the Department of Health has informed the Medical Independent that members of the NPHET and its subgroups “are not required to sign a confidentiality agreement”.
At a meeting in June, the EAG discussed a “media leak” with Chair Dr Cillian De Gascun expressing concern that an email from a member, which had been circulated within the group, was reported “verbatim” by a media organisation.
“The Chair indicated that this represents a breach of confidentiality, which is disappointing given that the group, while not always in agreement, has to date been functioning in a very supportive and collegiate manner,” according to meeting minutes.
“Procedures will be tightened up and members will be asked to declare conflicts of interests and to sign a confidentiality agreement. In future, suggestions/papers for inclusion on meeting agendas should be submitted through the secretariat mailbox only and not circulated to all group members.
“Some members also expressed disappointment at the leaked email and supported the need for tightened procedures including ensuring security of emails and documents.
Members felt that the opportunity to have frank discussions within the group and to express differing viewpoints was a positive thing….”
In late May, RTÉ Prime Time reported on an email circulated within the EAG by a member who said the two-metre distancing guideline was “paralysing the country” and students were being “unfairly compromised” by the continued closure of schools.