A MESSAGE TO FRONTLINE READERS: Quality of Life, Standards, and Regulation.

Kathleen Lynch, TD, Minister for primary Care, Social Care (Disabilities/older people) and Mental Health introduces Frontline's first e-publication and in doing so addresses the issues of Standards, Regulation and Quality of life.

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High standards are expected with regards to our quality of disability services. HIQA inspect our services to make sure the standards are being met.
The recent events in Áras Attracta show that staff and management must be vigilant.
The National Disability Authority (NDA) is to conduct an independent review, one year on, by June 2015.

People with disabilities should be given the opportunity to live as full a life as possible and to live with their families, and as part of their communities, for as long as possible.

Every person who uses our disability services and our services for older people, is entitled to expect and receive supports of the highest standard and to live in an atmosphere of safety and care. It is important that we all continue to set our sights high and keep our expectations raised about what people have a right to expect of their services and of society in general.

The Programme for Government committed to putting National Standards for Residential Services for People with Disabilities on a statutory footing, to ensure that the services could be inspected by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA). This commitment was fulfilled when two regulations, one relating to care and support and the second relating to registration issues, were approved and signed by the Minister for Health, with the scheme commencing on 1 November 2013.

The purpose of the regulations is to safeguard and support the delivery of person-centred care to vulnerable people of any age who are receiving residential care services and to ensure that their health, well-being and quality of life are promoted and protected.  Over 670 HIQA inspections of disability services have taken place to date.

The recent shocking events in Áras Attracta clearly demonstrated that in addition to the statutory regulations, there is an onus on staff and management in services provided by or on behalf of the HSE to safeguard and protect vulnerable people in the care of the health service. This is of paramount importance and the Director General of the HSE has written to all staff instructing them to take personal responsibility for ensuring that individuals supported by the HSE in any setting are treated with dignity and respect.

The HSE has undertaken a number of additional initiatives to ensure that quality and safe care in residential services for people with disabilities is appropriately implemented and monitored. The “Safeguarding Vulnerable Persons at Risk of Abuse – National Policy & Procedures Implementation” policy document was launched on 5th December 2014. It is relevant to all HSE and HSE-funded services staff. It builds on and incorporates existing policies in HSE Disability and Elder Abuse services, and in a range of other Disability Service providers.

If any readers of Frontline have concerns regarding patient care or safety, I urge them to bring it to the immediate attention of the service provider under the arrangements set out in these guidelines.

I have invited the National Disability Authority (NDA) to conduct an independent review, one year on, to capture learning to date from the introduction of the system of regulation, standards and inspections in relation to residential disability services. The review is to capture the experience, impact and learning from the introduction of the system of regulation, standards and monitoring of residential disability services, and also highlight the range of good practices which are in place.

I expect the NDA to have completed its final report and submitted to me by June 2015.

Finally, I can assure you all that as Minister for Primary Care, Social Care (Disabilities/Older People) and Mental Health, I and my Department will monitor progress on the initiatives and processes commissioned by the HSE in relation to Áras Attracta, to ensure that the lessons learnt from this incident will be driven throughout our health system to better protect vulnerable people.

Kathleen Lynch was appointed Minister of State at the Department of Health with special responsibility for Disability, Mental Health and Older People in March 2011.  In July 2014, she assumed responsibility for Primary Care while retaining responsibility for Mental Health, Disability and Older People under the Social Care element of her portfolio.

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