Chief Medical Officer

The Chief Medical Officer has overall responsibility in relation to patient safety and quality in the health service in this context and has developed and implemented proposals for the

  • establishment of a Patient Safety Authority supporting the Commission on Patient Safety and Quality Assurance, supporting National Patient Safety Advisory Group,
  • management of patient safety protocols within the Department,
  • undertaking the corporate relationship between HIQA and the Department,
  • maintaining relationship with HSE on protected disclosures,
  • provide administrative support for National Clinical Effectiveness Committee
  • maintenance of Patient Safety First Website

The following are  part of the Chief Medical Officer’s Department. The Bioethics Unit supports the Chief Medical Officer’s Office and wider Department in achieving objectives through the provision of expert bioethical analysis and advice.   It provides bioethical advice and input into policy and legislation including issues in relation to end of life, organ transplant, human tissue, health information, clinical trials and transplantation of organs.  It acts as a focal point for bioethical expertise at cross sector level.  The National Advisory Committee on Bioethics was established in 2012 and is under the aegis of the Department.

Key Units

The Department of Health supports the Minister in the formulation and evaluation of policies for health services.  It has a role in strategic planning of health services which is carried out in conjunction with the HSE, voluntary service providers, other government departments and other interested parties.

The Blood and Organs Policy Unit support standards in relation to the use of blood tissues and organs in order to ensure compliance with international standards.  It oversees the provision of services under the Health legislation relevant to blood and organ.  It manages litigation on behalf of the Minister relating to Hepatitis C and HIV.

The Cancer Policy group supports HSE to ensure implementation of the policy on the delivery of cancer service through the HSE’s National Cancer Control Program.  It monitors the performance of HSE against agreed performance standards. It supports and funds National Cancer Registry.  It participates in an All Ireland Cancer Consortium with Northern Ireland.

The Clinical Effectiveness Unit is made up of stakeholders including clinicians, patient representatives, Department of Health, patient safety representatives, managers and regulatory bodies, insurance and clinical indemnity agencies and private health care providers.  It prioritises quality assurance, clinical guidelines and clinical audits. It gives recommendation to the Department as part of the National Clinical Guidelines.  The guidelines seek to provide guidance and standards for improving quality, safety and cost effectiveness of health care in Ireland.

The Food Safety and Environmental Health section is responsible for legislative development, policy formation, monitoring and evaluation of the HSE in the context of food safety and environmental health.  The HSAI is the scientific body which is directly dedicated to public health and consumer’s interest.

The Health Promotion Unit monitors and evaluates national strategies in relation to health promotion and improvement. It  contributes to health promotion policies in the North-South context and EU in international level.  It leads to development of policy on rare disease.

It deals with policies in the areas alcohol, smoking, diet, nutrition, cardiovascular health and physical activity.  It supports research on health trends and behaviour.

The Health Protection Unit monitors notifiable diseases.  It undertakes public health emergency planning and monitors update of immunisation. Its key objective is to support public health, through control of infectious diseases, immunisation, public health emergency including in particular for pandemics.  It implements HSE policy and legislation.

The Social Inclusion Unit oversees responsibilities in the area of social inclusion and reproductive health.  This includes policies in relation to socially excluded and minority groups as well as issues on gender-based violence, HIV, female genital mutilation and assisted human reproduction.

The National Patient Safety Office Unit seeks to improve the overall quality of care including safety, effectiveness, appropriateness, access, efficiency, acceptability issues identified in policy reviews.  It undertakes a range of initiatives to progress the patient safety agenda. It seeks to strengthen and reform the regulatory framework for providers and healthcare professions.  It is involved in the establishment of HIQA and structural reforms within the HSE.

The National Patient Safety Advisory Group represent Ireland in meetings of the EU Patient Safety Working Group.

The Tobacco Control Unit seeks to ensure that appropriate legal framework policies and structures are in place to facilitate tobacco control to protect public health.  It contributes to policies at EU level.  It monitors enforcement of legislation and works with  the HSE to build compliance.

The Money Follows the Patient initiative is a new model for funding public hospital care.  It seeks to moving away from block grants to a system where hospitals are paid on the level of activity.  Funding will also be gauged on the quantity and quality of services delivered.

Private Health Insurance

The Private Health Insurance Unit deals with the regulation and policy in the Private Health Insurance Market.  It deals with authorisations on private health insurance matters, the Risk Equalisation Scheme, Corporate Governance in relation to the Health Insurance Authority and the VHI, and litigation management in the Private Health Insurance area.

It deals with Lifetime Community Ratings Regulations and Minimum Benefit Regulations.  The Drugs Program Unit has overall management and administrative responsibility for the financial allocation under the Drugs Initiative Programs current and capital.  These are drug related projects and initiatives in the Drugs Task Force area to address the drug problem at the national and local level.  It is responsible for the management of the work of the Drugs Advisory Group which supports the Task Force.


The Drugs Policy Unit seeks to implement the national drugs strategy to tackle damage caused  to individuals, families and communities by the problem of drug and alcohol abuse.  It seeks to operate through the five pillars of supply reduction, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and research.

The Medicines, Controlled Drugs and Pharmacy Legislation Unit develops policy and legislation in relation to medicine, poisons, cosmetics, controlled drugs and pharmacy services.   It engages at EU and international level in the areas concerned.   It monitors and evaluates the work of the HPRA which is a statutory agency in Ireland.

Primary Care

The Primary Care Unit develops policy and legislation in relation to healthcare services in the community.  This includes development of primary care teams, supply and pricing of drugs under the GMS medical card scheme and community drugs schemes, dental and optical scheme.  It deals with contractual issues with GPs, dentists, pharmacists and opticians.  It develops policy and monitors service in respect of general practice, dental, ophthalmic, community, audiology and chiropractic services.  It deals with pricing and reimbursement policy for medicines under GMS Community Drugs Schemes.

The Blood and Organs Policy Unit support standards in relation to the use of blood tissues and organs in order to ensure compliance with international standards.  It oversees the provision of services under the Health legislation relevant to blood and organ.  It manages litigation on behalf of the Minister relating to Hepatitis C and HIV.

The Cancer Policy group  supports HSE to ensure implementation of the policy on the delivery of cancer service through the HSE’s National Cancer Control Program.  It monitors the performance of HSE against agreed performance standards. It supports and funds National Cancer Registry.  It participates in an All Ireland Cancer Consortium with Northern Ireland.

Research Finance & Information

The EU International and Research Policy Group deals with EU draft Directives on Patient Rights in Cross-border Healthcare.  It manages the Department’s responsibilities under EU scrutiny legislation.

The internal external ICT Group advises, services the Department on a number of agencies regarding infrastructure management, development programs, web development, procurement and security.  Its role includes services in the area of infrastructure management, application development programs, web development and disaster recovery/security.

The Finance Department is responsible in respect of certain key health votes.  It is an important relation to health funding policy and has a role in respect of internal accounts and accounting.

The Information Unit plays a role in management and the application of health information and policy to improve health information.  It provides data and statistics to aid the department in planning, evaluating and monitoring.  It publishes and disseminates health data.  It implements systems for collection and use, reporting of data, provides an analysis and statistical expertise and supports working group.

The Group Unit supports strategic development for cross departmental and intersectoral purposes.  It develops the contribution of health information policy and the development of data and indicators.

The Research Utilisation Team supports the department’s personnel in the more effective and efficient use of research evidence in their work and the overall enhancement of analytical capability within the Department.  It seeks to ensure the personnel and the Department of access to the relevant material through the development and provision of library material  and awareness.  It builds capacity in identifying reliable research evidence and appropriate application and use.  It assists in the integration of research evidence into working practices.


The National Human Resources Division drives and implements policy on employment in the public health sector.  This includes oversight, policy direction, support and advice to the HSE and partners on  HR issues in the Health Sector.  This includes terms and conditions of employment for grades in the public health service including drawing ups, pay scales, structural reform and policy on employment numbers and employment control framework as well as policy on pensions.

The Workforce Planning/Agency Governance and Clinical Indemnity Unit has responsibilities in relation to education and training of healthcare staff, workforce planning strategy for the health services, governance in relation to the Medical Council and Bord Altranais, management of issues relating to clinical indemnity, implementing government policy in the Department’s agencies relating to members, rationalisation, paying conditions and corporate governance, and monitoring compliance with the Disability Act.

The Professional Regulation Unit is responsible for regulatory policy and legislation in relation to health and social care professionals, including doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists.   It coordinates Departmental policy on the recognition of foreign health professional qualifications including implementation of EU Directives on Recognition of Qualification.  It has oversight of the Health and Social Care Professional Council.  It manages the Department’s position in relation to Complementary and Alternative Therapy.


The Disability  Unit develops policies and supports provision of health and personal social supports for persons with disability.  It monitors, evaluates and reports on the provision of health and personal social supports and services funded from the Health Vote, for persons with disabilities.  It supports  the national disability strategy.

It works with government departments to encourage cross-sectoral liaison on housing, employment and training needs for people with disabilities.  It oversees implementation of the Value for Money Review of Disability Services, including transition towards a person-centred model of services.  It advances a joint implementation Framework for the Housing Strategy for Persons with Disabilities with the Department of Environment, including supporting the transition to community living.

Fair Deal

The Long Stay Charges Unit oversees the Health Repayment Scheme Act 2006 and Fair Deal scheme.   It monitors and liaises with the HSE in relation to the operation of long stay care charges repayments.  It has oversight of the Health Repayment Scheme Appeals Office.  It provides liaison and administrative support to the National Oversight Committee.  It is involved in the management of long stay and disability litigation.

It develops the policy on long stay charges and monitors the Mental Health Unit.  It is involved in policy formation in the area of mental health and suicide prevention.  It facilitates and monitors implementation of national strategy on suicide prevention.  It monitors HSE performance in mental health services. It is  involved in the ongoing review of mental health legislation. It has  oversight of the Mental Health Commission.

Support Units

The following units are not dedicated to specific medical areas or issues.

The Freedom of Information Unit coordinates and manages responsibility under the Freedom of Information Acts and access to information on the environment regulations.

The Human Resources and Corporate Development Department deals with HR matters for the Department.

The Legal Section provides legal advice on  litigation matters for the Department.  It participates in the legislative program and advises on heads of bills and the content of statutory instruments.

The Press and Communications Office deal with liaison with the media, redevelopment of the website and communications with other health sector stakeholders.

The Parliamentary Affairs Division assists, and coordinates matters with the Minister and Ministers for State, updates the essential briefing systems, liaises with the HSE in relation to parliamentary questions and ensures timely response.

The Records Management Unit deals with the holding of files on-site and off-site and the audit of file holding.  It processes access requests from applicants for access to personal information.


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Draft Articles; The articles on this website are in draft form and are subject to further review for typographical errors and, in some cases, updating and correction. It is intended to include references to the sources of materials and acknowledgements in the final version. The content of articles with [EU] in the title and some of the articles in the section on Agriculture are a reproduction of or are based on European or Irish public sector information.

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