Health Information and Quality Authority publish report on Health Information

Date of publication:

The Health Information and Quality Authority today published a report on Recommendations for a Unique Health Identifier for Individuals in Ireland. The report calls for the immediate introduction of a more robust and safer method of identifying patients in the health and social care system. 

Professor Jane Grimson, Director of Health Information in the Authority, said, "In order to provide high quality and reliable health care, and ensure maximum patient safety, it is essential that patients can be identified uniquely and clearly and this is not currently the case.

At the moment in Ireland there is no reliable method of tracking a patient through the healthcare system. Currently, healthcare services rely on matching names, addresses and date of birth, none of which are reliable or recorded in a standard format. This poses a substantial risk to the safe delivery of services. Our primary concern is patient safety, and this is one area where immediate action is needed.

The Health and Social Care system requires the introduction of a number, unique to each individual in the country, known as a Unique Health Identifier or 'UHI'. A UHI can increase patient safety by offering a secure mechanism by which people can be identified.

It is clear from recent reports that tragedies could have been averted – if only the health and social care services had a clearer sense of the contacts between the family and State services and a better, safer use of information about such patients. This is just one example of how a UHI can improve safety.

" In addition to more effectively identifying patients, a UHI can reduce the need for the repetition of tests, reducing unnecessary cost and resource expenditure in the health service and, as a result, delivering a more efficient service – a particularly important consideration in the current climate.

The Authority has recommended to the Minster for Health and Children that a new number be developed and implemented across all health and social care settings to ensure that patients receive the safest care possible.

Equally important in developing this system is appropriately balancing patient safety and privacy concerns. Research by the Authority found that 94% of people wanted their medical information to be accessible by emergency medical staff with a further 86% stating their desire for health information to be joined up across the system.

Professor Grimson concluded, "More must be done to ensure patient safety by effectively linking information across the healthcare system. We have made our recommendations to the Minister and will continue to work with her Department as legislation on this matter progresses".

Since submitting our report, the Minister has established a group representing the key stakeholders, chaired by the Department, to finalise policy in relation to the UHI. "We welcome this initiative and look forward to working with the Group to progress the implementation of such a key determinant of patient safety."


Report on Recommendations for a Unique Health Identifier for Individuals in Ireland

Further Information: 

For further information please contact:
Marty Whelan, Head of Communications and Stakeholder Engagement
01 814 7481 / 086 2447 623