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Thirteen related to risk to patient health/welfare, while the other three reports concerned staff health/welfare, alleged financial mismanagement, and alleged financial mismanagement as well as a patient health/welfare issue.
In total, 12 of the disclosures were effectively made under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014, which came into effect in July 2014. Nevertheless, the HSE has not updated its guidance on protected disclosure to reference the 2014 Act that sets “a new standard for whistleblower protection internationally”, according to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER).
Under relevant measures in the Health Act 2007, the HSE appointed an Authorised Person to receive disclosures from workers in HSE/HSE-funded services.
Transparency International (TI) Ireland has previously described major penalties in the Health Act for making a disclosure one ‘ought to know’ is false, as generating a “chilling effect” on prospective whistleblowers.
Existing sectoral protections were retained on the advice of the Office of the Attorney General, pending the planned statutory review of the 2014 Act.
TI Ireland CEO Mr John Devitt told MI that many public service bodies appeared to be waiting for DPER to finalise public sector guidance, before they published policies.
However, he said this should not stop the HSE from requesting its legal advisors to prepare guidance for staff.
Last September, DPER published guidance for public bodies on implementation of the legislation. This followed an “extensive consultation process with public bodies”. Its spokesperson said changes are being made to take account of responses to a public consultation that concluded in October 2015, but these “will not be substantive”.
A HSE spokesperson noted that DPER was preparing guidance and that the Executive would update literature in due course.
See investigation ‘Protecting the disclosers'