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‘Those who purchase a service must follow-up and evaluate it. For example, if the HSE purchases service from a private provider they must ensure that standards are being upheld. The State distributes large sums of funding to various organisations to provide a service and an oversight of how this money is used, as well as the outcomes that are achieved, is necessary’ –                              Mary Dunnion, Chief Inspector of Social Services and Director of Regulation with HIQA

 The need for improved safeguarding measures by introducing new legislation to ensure the protection of those who may be at risk has been called for following a newly published HIQA report. It highlights the importance of having Garda vetting in place for all staff and volunteers, in particular, as a method of safeguarding.

The Chief Inspector of Social Services and Director of Regulation with HIQA, Mary Dunnion, told IMN: “Garda vetting is an important part of standard protocol and the onus is on the employer, as people are currently being employed without vetting, to ensure that those they employ have followed regulation. The process no longer takes much time, it’s about two weeks in total, and there is no excuse for any employee to be without Garda vetting.

“As well as that, there is no legislation surrounding the concept of safeguarding and protecting the human rights of the children, elderly, people with disabilities in question. At the moment we are currently working in association with the HSE to form an accountability framework so we’re taking steps in the right direction”.

HIQA published the review of the regulation of health and social care in early May, to ensure that nursing homes and residential centres for people with disabilities and foster care services were taking adequate measures to protect vulnerable people in their care against abuse, harm and exploitation.

The Overview of 2016 HIQA regulation of social care and healthcare services was the first analysis of its kind, combining the regulation of nursing homes, residential services for people with disabilities and children, and themed inspections of key areas of hospital practice, as often people transition between these services. Overall, Ms Dunnion believed people were happy and needed good care. “Nonetheless, a considerable number of people told us that they were not satisfied; that the services were not person-centred; and that services were failing to meet their needs”.

The report mentioned positives in Ireland’s health and social care services, such as that the culture of regulation is now embedded in nursing homes, influencing improvements in hospitals, disability and children’s services.

Ms Dunnion stated: “Throughout 2016, we made over 2,000 inspections, met thousands availing of the services and hundreds working in the area. This has offered us a good insight that we can break up into our key findings. What we have seen is that regulation drives services, heightening awareness of good practice. When that’s strong, there’s a significantly better chance that higher standards and regulations will be met, resulting in better outcomes for people using services. The report recommended that national health and social care policy needs to be developed and followed to support improvement in services which may be locally driven.

Ms Dunnion advised those who fund services to take a greater role in holding those services to account. “Those who purchase a service must follow-up and evaluate it. For example, if the HSE purchases service from a private provider they must ensure that standards are being upheld. The State distributes large sums of funding to various organisations to provide a service and an oversight of how this money is used, as well as the outcomes that are achieved, is necessary”. The Chief Inspector also called for an emphasis on better direction and implementation of national policy and timely decision-making. She explained that she felt that an apt example of where these factors could have been improved was in situations last year relating to the country’s ambulance services and the services at Midlands Regional Hospital, Portlaoise.