HIQA shows that monitoring against national standards drives improvement in the safety and quality of care in public acute hospitals

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has today published an overview report on its ­monitoring activity in healthcare services in Ireland between January 2015 and December 2019. This report provides an overall analysis of the monitoring work that HIQA has carried out during this time. It identifies areas of progress that have been driven through HIQA monitoring across public acute hospitals, and outstanding opportunities for improvement.

Since 2015, HIQA has carried out over 260 inspections in public acute hospitals to assess the quality of care in internationally-recognised areas such as infection prevention and control, medication safety, maternity services, and nutrition and hydration.

HIQA monitors compliance in public acute hospitals against the National Standards for Safer Better Healthcare, and publishes its findings. These standards aim to ensure consistent and high-quality care across the hospital system. Adhering to nationally mandated standards is a key aspect of ensuring that the health system has the required underlying capacity and capability needed to provide a high-quality and safe service.

HIQA’s Director of Regulation, Mary Dunnion, said: “Our experience over the last five years, as outlined through this report, shows how a focus on monitoring compliance with national standards has contributed to tangible improvements and change across public acute hospitals, to ensure the delivery of safer better healthcare. This, combined with some increased investment in certain areas, better collective learning and more effective systems of oversight of performance in services, has contributed to improved quality and safety of these healthcare services.”

Despite a current lack of enforcement powers in healthcare settings, HIQA’s monitoring work has the potential to act as a catalyst for significant improvement in our healthcare services. One such example relates to the work that HIQA has engaged in over many years in the area of infection prevention and control and antimicrobial stewardship. A focus on this area by HIQA has seen an improvement within the acute hospital system’s long-term ability to sustainably address this area of risk – something that will continue to prove critical as the health system responds to COVID-19.

Sean Egan, HIQA’s Head of Healthcare, said: “We believe that overall, healthcare governance and risk management structures have improved in public acute hospitals over the past five years. Our findings demonstrate the importance of how good governance and management, strengthened by an ethos of staff professionalism and team working, is the first line of defence when providing safe, high-quality and reliable healthcare.”

Sean Egan continued: “Future legislation under development will see HIQA’s role in the healthcare setting expand to include monitoring against standards in private healthcare, including the introduction of licensing of healthcare facilities. As both HIQA and healthcare providers prepare for this change, it will be important to learn from, and build upon, the experiences gained through monitoring by HIQA against national standards over the past number of years. This report provides an overview of this work, in the interest of assisting with these preparations.”

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