Minister for Health Simon Harris brought the general scheme of the Patient Safety Bill to Cabinet today, which he described as a significant milestone in embedding a culture of change within the Irish health service.
The bill provides for the mandatory open disclosure of serious patient safety incidents to those who have been harmed by them.
Mr Harris believes this will create a culture of mandatory open disclosure and learning from things that go wrong.
Examples of serious patient safety incidents would include wrong site surgery, patient death or serious disability associated with a medication or diagnostic error.
It also includes serious errors that emerge in screening programmes and maternal deaths.
This is similar to the duty of candour that operates in the UK but goes further.
In the UK, the duty of candour only applies to organisations and not individual health professionals, as intended here in the proposed bill.
Speaking on his way into Government Buildings, Mr Harris said there was a need to ensure that open disclosure was mandatory.
He said the Irish legislation would go further than the UK and the bill would also extend the Health Information and Quality Authority's inspection powers to private hospitals.
Asked what sanctions would apply to doctors who fail to comply with open disclosure, Minister Harris said there will be both "summary and indictment sanctions, which will include fines and potential imprisonment".
"When something has gone seriously wrong, it shouldn't be an option to tell the patient," he said.
The minister also asked Government to approve the publication of the Children's Health Bill 2018.
It provides for the establishment of a single statutory entity called Children's Health Ireland (CHI).
CHI will provide paediatric services and take over the service currently provided by the existing three Dublin children's hospitals.
The new entity will initially oversee the complex work of integrating the staff and services of the three hospitals.
The new national children's hospital, on a campus shared with St James's Hospital, is set be completed by 2022.
Additional Reporting Justin McCarthy