The best way to honour Vicky Phelan is to implement all of the CervicalCheck recommendations both in “letter and spirit”, Dr Gabriel Scally has said.
Publishing his review of the progress that has been made in implementing over 50 CervicalCheck recommendations, Dr Scally called for the introduction of open disclosure in the healthcare system and hit out at hurtful attitudes “which are still prevalent”.
Dr Scally said he shares the “great sense of loss felt by so many” in the wake of Vicky Phelan’s death.
“The best way of honouring Vicky is implementing the recommendations of the scoping inquiry both in the letter and in the spirit of those recommendations,” he said.
Ms Phelan has strongly argued for the introduction of mandatory open disclosure in the healthcare system, but Dr Scally said proposed laws are “problematic” and “limited” as they will only apply to a “tiny proportion” or patient incidents.
“All healthcare professionals should have a duty when things go wrong to deal with them in an open manner and with the grace and compassion they deserve.”
He suggested that amendments have watered down the Patient Safety (Notifiable Patient Safety Incidents) Bill, which was originally introduced in 2019 but has yet to be enacted.
“The limited scope of the Bill is problematic. The Bill only specifies the mandatory requirement for open disclosure in the case of 13 categories of incidents. 12 out of the 13 highly specific incidents where notification would be mandatory relate to the death of a patient. This, under any circumstances, represents a tiny proportion of harm caused to patients through clinical error.
“The enactment of a statutory duty of candour on individual healthcare professionals and on the organisations for which they work remains unaddressed,” Dr Scally said.
Asked about the change of attitude that is required both in relation to CervicalCheck and the wider healthcare system, he said “culture eats strategy for breakfast” and it can take years to change a culture.
He added that he is “very disappointed” by the way in which patient representatives and advocates continue to be treated.
“I remember when it dawned on me at one meeting, that the only people who are not being paid to be there were the lay people, the patient advocates the people giving the view and I know that that system is wrong.
“It is ridiculous that people are having to damage their own businesses or their relationship with their employer or the use our own time and their own resources to enable them to contribute to the collective good because that’s what they’re there for to help us build a better health service for the population and they need to be recompensed for the time,” he said.
The campaigning work done by Ms Phelan, and others, forced the Government to set up an inquiry into what happened to the women affected by CervicalCheck.
Ms Phelan passed away earlier this month at the age of 48.
She grabbed the attention of the public in 2018 after bringing a High Court