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Launch of the National Patient Experience Survey Report Speech by An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, T.D., 11 December 2017, Royal Irish Academy


Good morning everyone. I’m delighted to be here this morning for the launch of the National Patient Experience Survey Report.

The Dalai Lama once said that ‘when we talk, we are only repeating what we already know. But if we listen, we may learn something new’. This report shows the value of listening, and thanks to it we have learned much that will help us improve the experiences of patients across the country.

I would like to begin by thanking the almost 14,000 patients across 40 hospitals who took the time to answer the 61 questions.

This survey provides personal experiences of the Irish health service. Good as well as bad.
Starting with the positive, it allows patients to share their positive experiences and to give praise where it is due.

It records the many good examples of care people receive, and the fantastic work that our health care teams do - day-in day-out - to care for us when we are at our most vulnerable.

It also shows us where we can improve.

With this survey, the health service has demonstrated a welcome openness to critical evaluation and examination.

Patients were able to highlight where things went wrong for them during their stay in hospital.

Thanks to the comments and suggestions we can now try to take the necessary steps to improve things.

Survey Results

The National Patient Experience Survey is particularly meaningful for me.

As Minister for Health, I brought forward a number of patient safety policy changes, including the formation of the National Patient Safety Office in the Department of Health and the establishment of an annual patient experience survey across all hospitals.

The results which are being released this morning give, I think, a very honest and realistic appraisal of our health service today.

While these results do indicate areas of challenge for our hospitals, also evident are the very many positive experiences which have been reported.

Over 80% of the responses to this survey viewed their overall stay in hospital as being either “very good” or “good”. It is important that we acknowledge that fact in the first instance.

It is especially reassuring to see the high regard in which hospital staff are held by those who know their work best.

Over 80% of patients say that they were always treated with respect and dignity. Over 80% always had confidence and trust in their hospital staff.

There are also lessons to be learned.

For example, many pointed to long waits for admission from emergency departments, and others pointed to issues relating to patient communication and emotional support during their stay.

It is only by differentiating between the positive and the negative that we will be able to target areas for improvement.

That is why exercises such as this are so important.

Throughout my time in Government, we have been making large scale efforts to create a more responsive, more transparent and more accountable public service.

One that engages with people – and encourages people to engage with it.

The decision to undertake the National Patient Experience Survey is only one item in a broader national agenda to improve people’s health.

The recent Budget provided a record allocation for health - €15 billion. This will help reduce waiting times, and improve our hospitals, primary care, mental health, and services for older people. But the next decade must also be about reform as well as resources. Because a country that spends the fifth highest in the world on healthcare deserves to have a top-tier health service.

While this survey highlights the many positive aspects of our health service, it also highlights the need for further reform.

The Sláintecare Report, agreed earlier this year by the Oireachtas Committee on the Future of Healthcare, sets out a ten-year vision for the health service.

I know that Minister Harris and his officials are working to respond to that report and to develop a roadmap for health reform for the coming years.

We will see, for example, a greater emphasis on integrated care.

We want to develop the capacity for GPs and primary care practitioners to deliver services in the community, rather than continuing to rely on our public hospitals to such an extent.

Sláintecare also looks to enhance the clinical governance arrangements in the health service to ensure accountability for all aspects of the patient’s care.

Standards in Health Care
Our health service already has many great success stories. I think it is important we acknowledge this.

The successful implementation of the National Cancer Strategy, for example, has delivered enormous improvements in cancer survival rates.

The National Maternity Strategy puts mothers’ health, wellbeing and experience at the heart of its approach.

And the recently launched National Action Plan for Antimicrobial Resistance aims to tackle the global AMR threat.

Each year sees a record number of patients come through our health service. And the service and the staff respond with increased productivity. Last year, for example, over 1.6 million inpatient and daycase patients were treated in our acute hospitals.

We are also making significant investment in our health infrastructure.

A number of capital projects are either on-going or planned in the coming years, including a new National Children's Hospital, a new Maternity Hospital and a new National Forensic Mental Health Services Hospital at Portrane.
We will continue to build on these successes through measures such as the Patient Experience Survey.

It is right that the HSE, the hospital groups and the individual hospitals which participated in the survey have already responded to the specific issues which have been raised in this survey.


I would like to thank Minister Harris and the three partners in this endeavour, the HSE, the Department of Health, and the Health Information and Quality Authority, who have worked together over the past number of years to complete this project.

I also wish to acknowledge Phelim Quinn, the CEO of HIQA, HSE Director General Tony O’Brien, and the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan, for all they did. And the many people who worked to bring us this survey.

I would also like to recognise the contribution of Patient Focus, which works on behalf of patients all over this country, and which has played a huge role in promoting the role of the patient in the development of healthcare policies in Ireland.


As we continue with this survey in the years to come, we will be able to evaluate what changes have been implemented as result of it. We will be able to measure the value of improvements made. And we will keep people informed of our progress.

We will also see the survey expand into other services, with maternity services planned to form part of the 2018 iteration.

This, therefore, is only the beginning of a longer journey.

It is one where we will all work together, so that all voices are heard.

Thank you.