There are legal safeguards for people who want to report serious concerns about standards of safety or quality in Irish health and social care services, including mental health services.
What is Protected Disclosure?
Part 14 of the Health Act 2007 provides legal safeguards for people who want to report serious concerns about standards of safety or quality in Irish health and social care services, including mental health services. It aims to encourage individuals to voice concerns regarding the safety and welfare of patients and to foster a culture of openness and accountability throughout the health services.
In certain circumstances, a disclosure made to some organisations and persons about the standards of safety or quality of health and social services will qualify as a “protected disclosure”. This means that if you report a concern which qualifies as a protected disclosure, you are afforded certain legal protections. For example, if you are an employee of certain health service employers, you are not liable for damages and may not be penalised by your employer for having made the protected disclosure.
Where should I report my concern?
The Health Act 2007 specifies a number of organisations and individuals to which protected disclosures can be made.
The organisation or individual to which you should report your concern depends on:
- Whether you are a health service employee or a member of the public; and
- The organisation or individual about which you are making the disclosure.
An employee of a mental health service provided by or on behalf of the HSE who wishes to make a protected disclosure should do so to the HSE’s Authorised Person. This person has been appointed by the HSE to investigate all disclosures about the HSE or any of the services provided by or on behalf of the HSE. More information on this process can be found on the HSE's website
An employee of a mental health service other than a mental health service provided by the HSE or on behalf of the HSE can make a protected disclosure to the Mental Health Commission or the Inspector of Mental Health Services. Such a disclosure will be protected if an employee has reasonable grounds to believe that:
- The actions of any person employed by the person providing the services or acting on his/her behalf has posed, is posing or is likely to pose a risk to the health or welfare of a person receiving the service; and/or
- A person providing the services has failed, is failing or is likely to fail to comply with the Mental Health Acts 1945 – 2001, the Mental Health Act 2001 (Approved Centres) Regulations 2006 or any other statutory obligation; and/or
- The evidence of any issue referred to in a) or b) above has been or is likely to be deliberately concealed or destroyed.
An employee of a mental health service can also make a protected disclosure to the Inspector of Mental Health Services when he or she is in the course of an inspection carried out in accordance with section 51 of the Mental Health Act 2001.
In addition, there are certain circumstances in which an employee of a mental health service provided by or on behalf of the HSE can make a protected disclosure to the Mental Health Commission or the Inspector of Mental Health Services. This can occur if the employee has grounds to believe that:
- The disclosure is justified by the reason of the urgency of the matter; or
- There has been no investigation of the matter or if an investigation has taken place, there has been no action or recommended action on the subject matter of the disclosure.
Who do I contact in the Mental Health Commission about a protected disclosure?
To contact the Mental Health Commission or for further information on protected disclosures, please contact:
Mr Gary Kiernan
Director of Regulation
Mental Health Commission
Telephone: 01 6362400
Who else can I make protected disclosures to?
There are a number of other organisations and individuals covered by this legislation. If you report a concern that is considered more appropriate for referral to another organisation or individual, the Commission/Inspector will advise you to contact the appropriate organisation or individual.
Other statutory organisations, professional regulatory bodies and individuals that are covered by the legislation are:
The Adoption Board;
An Bord Altranais;
The Chief Inspector of Social Services;
The Comptroller and Auditor General;
The Dental Council;
The Health and Social Care Professionals Council;
The Health Information and Quality Authority;
The Irish Medicines Board
The Medical Council; and
The Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland.
Part 14 of the Health Act 2007 provides full for details of the circumstances in which protected disclosures can be made to those organisations and individuals listed above.
The information above is a guide to some of the provisions on protected disclosures contained in Part 14 of the Health Act 2007. It does not give a legal interpretation of the legislation or its provisions, so please do not rely on it for advice. For full information, please read Part 14 of the Health Act 2007. The Mental Health Commission cannot advise you on whether the disclosure you intend to make, whether to it or any other body specified in the legislation, will qualify as a protected disclosure.