New guidance aims to ensure human rights are upheld in health and social care settings

Date of publication:

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) has published a new guidance document which aims to ensure the human rights of people who use health and social care services are protected and upheld.

Launched at the National Patient Safety Office Conference this morning, the guidance aims to support health and social care staff and organisations to implement the principles of human rights in their day-to-day work.

Ms Rachel Flynn, HIQA’s Director of Health Information and Standards, said: “Human rights are the basic rights and freedoms that all people should enjoy. Human rights mean people being treated with fairness, respect, equality and dignity, having a say over their lives, and participating as fully as possible in decisions about their care and support. People should expect that their human rights will be promoted and protected at all times, including when they require the care and support of health and social care services.

“While HIQA’s inspections have identified good practice in upholding human rights in some services, better understanding and knowledge is required among other practitioners, and among people using services, on how human rights principles apply in health and social care services. This guidance will assist staff and services to understand human rights and to uphold these rights in practice. It will also help people who use services to understand their rights, and what they should expect from a service committed to respecting, protecting and promoting their human rights.”

Guidance on a Human Rights-based Approach in Health and Social Care Services was developed in conjunction with Safeguarding Ireland and was part-funded by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission under the Human Rights and Equality Grant Scheme 2017. The guidance provides practical examples and case studies to support staff to implement this approach across a wide range of services.

Ms Flynn continued: “A human rights-based approach allows service providers to improve the standard of care and support, and the safety of people who use health and social care services. Promoting and protecting people’s human rights will help to ensure a safe environment for people who may be in a state of increased vulnerability. It also encourages people to be involved in decisions about their own treatment and support, while demonstrating respect for their dignity and ensuring they are supported to live a whole and fulfilling life.”

Guidance on a Human Rights-based Approach in Health and Social Care Services and supporting resources are available from a link at the bottom of the page.


Further Information:
Clare O’Byrne, Acting Media and Stakeholder Relations Manager, HIQA
01 8286712 / 085 8030846,  

Notes to the editor:

  • Respect for human rights is implicit within the national standards developed by HIQA, for example National Standards for Safer Better Healthcare (2012), as well as standards for older persons, disability and maternity services, and adult safeguarding. This guidance provides additional support to people working in health and social care services in understanding a human rights-based approach and implementing national standards into practice.
  • Safeguarding Ireland is a multiagency and inter-sectoral body with an independent chairperson. It has the overarching remit of supporting the development of a societal and organisational culture that promotes the rights of people who may be at risk of harm, and safeguards them from abuse. HIQA is a member of Safeguarding Ireland.
  • The guidance was informed by a thorough review of national and international evidence on human rights and human rights-based approaches to care and support. In addition to reviewing national and international legislation on human rights, HIQA reviewed standards, guidelines and supporting tools and resources in other jurisdictions.
  • The guidance was developed following two public consultations, an advisory group and nine focus groups with front-line staff and management from a range of health and social care services, people using services, and advocates.
  • HIQA has also published a number of additional resources to help staff to implement a rights-based approach. These include an FAQ, Decision Flow Chart, Legal Framework and Fair Approach Model which can be found underneath the publication from the link below.