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Health | Vulnerable groups protections in health services

To ask the Minister for Health the proposed best protection for vulnerable groups, including the elderly, within the public health sphere to ensure their protection to the best possible standard; and if he will make a statement on the matter.


The HSE regularly publishes public health advice for older people and other service users on how to stay well and be protected, including publications on keeping well in winter and on vaccination, which are available online on HSE’s website at the following web addresses:

Protecting older or vulnerable patients and service users who may be at risk of abuse, harm, and neglect by others in the context of their interactions with the health and social care sector is a key objective of my Department, every statutory body under its aegis, and every relevant service that interacts with such adults.  In the health and social care sector, a framework of standards, policies and procedures for safeguarding adults who may be at risk of abuse, harm, neglect, and exploitation within the sector is in place, and further measures are being developed to strengthen this framework. The existing framework includes:

  • the application within the health sector of relevant cross-sectoral legislation, for example in relation to reporting certain offences against children or vulnerable persons to An Garda Síochána, vetting, equal status and assisted decision-making;
  • the significant regulatory powers of HIQA and the Mental Health Commission in relation to the quality and safety of healthcare and social care provision generally (under the Health Act 2007 and the Mental Health Acts);
  • joint national adult safeguarding standards developed by HIQA and the Mental Health Commission, approved by the Minister for Health;
  • the roles of health and social care professional regulatory bodies in relation to, for example, professional registration requirements and professional codes of conduct;
  • a range of operational structures and procedures, including in particular the HSE’s national operational adult safeguarding policy Safeguarding Vulnerable People at Risk of Abuse – Policy and Procedures (2014).

My Department remains committed to ensuring that the best possible safeguards are in place to protect any of our service users who may be at risk, and significant work is ongoing to develop health sector adult safeguarding policy and legislation, building on the robust structures already in place. 

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