HIQA publishes recommendations on information management practices within the HSE’s National Incident Management System (NIMS)

Date of publication:

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has published a review of information management practices for the National Incident Management System (NIMS) within the HSE. 

NIMS is the national information system for reporting and managing incidents across the HSE and HSE-funded services in Ireland. One of the HSE’s most important health information systems, NIMS is used for patient safety monitoring and learning by the HSE and for risk management, litigation and claims by the State Claims Agency (SCA). 

HIQA has made 10 recommendations, which should be considered in conjunction with the overall findings of this review, in order to improve information management practices for NIMS within the HSE.

Rachel Flynn, HIQA’s Director of Health Information and Standards, said: “NIMS is one of the HSE’s most important systems and the effective use of its data contributes to improvements in quality of care and patient safety. Complying with the Information Management Standards for National Health and Social Care Data Collections will improve the quality of national information on incidents in health and social care services and will help to instil confidence in patients, clinicians and all other stakeholders that health and social care services place the safety and wellbeing of users at the centre of their work.”

HIQA identified a number of shortcomings in relation to the current joint governance arrangements between the HSE and the SCA and the need for an effective governance, leadership and management model to be put in place to support NIMS. Furthermore, although there was evidence of good work being undertaken in relation to data quality, there is a need for the HSE, with support from the SCA, to develop an overarching data quality framework.

Ms Flynn continued, “The Sláintecare report, outlines the priorities for the health service over the next 10 years, and particularly emphasises the importance of quality health data and information to drive improvements in the future of healthcare in Ireland. To ensure that Ireland has the best possible patient safety and learning system, it is important that the HSE, with support from the SCA, implements the recommendations made by HIQA.”

The review highlighted that the HSE and SCA demonstrated good practices in a number of areas including information governance and use of information. However, roles and responsibilities for areas of information governance for NIMS within the HSE, such as information security, data quality, data protection and the secondary use of information also need to be clarified. 

The report can be found at www.hiqa.ie. 

Further information:

Marty Whelan, Head of Communications & Stakeholder Engagement
085 805 5202, mwhelan@hiqa.ie

Notes to editor:

  • This review is part of an overall review programme being undertaken by HIQA to assess compliance with the Information Management Standards in all major national health and social care data collections within the Health Service Executive (HSE) in Ireland. The review programme aims to drive quality improvements by identifying areas of good practice and areas where improvements are necessary across national data collections.
  • The Information management standards for national health and social care data collections can be found at: https://www.hiqa.ie/reports-and-publications/health-information/information-management-standards-national-health-and 
  • A guide to the review programme for national data collections can be found at: https://www.hiqa.ie/sites/default/files/2017-03/Guide-HIQA-review-information-management-practices-in-national-health-and-social-care-data-collections.pdf 
  • Information management is defined as the process of collecting, storing, managing, using and sharing health and social care information. It is a broad definition that includes the aspects of governance and management arrangements, data quality, information governance and use of information.
  • The importance of the NIMS system has been emphasised in light of the forthcoming enactment of the Patient Safety (Notifiable Patient Safety Incidents) Bill 2019 which specifies that health service providers must report notifiable incidents through the National Treasury Management Agency’s (NTMA) incident management system. Furthermore, it is expected that the new National Patient Safety Surveillance System being developed within the National Patient Safety Office in the Department of Health will incorporate NIMS as a key source of patient safety intelligence. 
  • While initially a system for reporting adverse events directly to the SCA, NIMS has evolved to become an end-to-end risk management tool used by the HSE to monitor incident data, manage risk and analyse all incident data to gain insights and learning to improve patient safety. 
  • The SCA has a dual function in relation to NIMS within the HSE: a legal remit to be notified of all adverse incidents through NIMS; and also to provide a service to the HSE in terms of system management, development, and technical support.
  • Since the adoption of NIMS, there has been an increase in incident reporting within the HSE from 125,000 incidents in 2014 to almost 205,000 incidents in 2020.
  • A catalogue of all national health and social care data collections in Ireland was first published in 2010 and was most recently updated in 2017 — Catalogue of National Health and Social Care Data Collections in Ireland. The current catalogue features 120 data collections. National health and social care data collections vary in size from large data repositories, such as the National Perinatal Reporting System (NPRS), to smaller patient registries, such as the Alpha-1 Research Registry.