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Head Medical Social Workers (HMSW)

Who we are?

The National Head Medical Social Workers Forum represents service managers from a wide range of medical settings including adult acute medical settings (private and public), paediatrics, maternity, rehabilitation & disability, long term care and hospice.

Vision Statement

Medical Social Work is a professional body that acknowledges the social and emotional cost of health care.  We are well placed to address and indeed minimise this often unrecognised cost of illness and can make a strong contribution to the social gain for patients and the wider community.  Our unique position allows us to give voice to the difficult experience of patients as they struggle to emotionally deal with the trauma of ill health.

The profession of Medical Social Work is located precisely at the intersection of health and inequality and practitioners are uniquely trained and skilled to address the broad scope of social determinants of health.  As such, Medical Social Workers seek to make a key contribution to the process of health care reform under the priorities of Sláintecare.

We are committed to the goal that Medical Social Work must remain a core part of the hospital multi-disciplinary team and advocate for safe staffing levels where services already exist in acute settings and advocate for the necessity of Social Work services to commence in settings where it currently does not exist. 

Mission Statement

Our mission is to provide a forum for the development and implementation of best standards among Medical Social Workers in Ireland. The group also functions to set and uphold national standard for health-related Social Work in Ireland, as an information exchange, to lobby on issues relation to our client group and as a support to Head Medical Social Workers in their work.


  • Identify, discuss and develop a stance on the core principles and issues related to the practice of health-related social work
  • To agree a position and lobby appropriate bodies on behalf of the clients we work with on issues of concern
  • To identify, discuss and provide guidance on site-specific issues in the everyday practice of medical social work
  • To set appropriate national standards in relation to the practice of Medical Social Work
  • To provide support to members in their everyday work through the discussion of challenges in the practice of medical social work 

Committee Members

  • Co-Chair - Donal Gill
  • Co-Chair - Aoife O'Neill
  • Secretary - Andrea Ward

How often meetings take place

In accordance with our Special Interest Group Terms of Reference, SIG’s shall:

  • Hold an Annual General Meeting (AGM) each year and elect a new committee.
  • The Committee shall meet not less than four times per year and can include the AGM, but more frequently if considered necessary by the committee. The quorum for all meetings of the Committee shall be four (4) members.

Current Activities/Plans/Projects

Members of this group actively engage in service planning and adaptations in response to the ever-changing health environment.

Specific activities include:

  • Engagement with national working groups for service enhancement and delivery
  • Engagement with the HSCP Office in their progressing advanced practitioner working group to highlight the need to ensure Social Work posts are in line with other HSCP and medical disciplines
  • Group survey undertaken in 2021 to inform the future strategic development of the group
  • The undertaking of a national Medical Social Work Census
  • Advocacy: Maintaining the voice of human rights and dignity across stressed and distressed medical settings.

How to join

Service Managers from medical settings are welcome to join the group by the IASW office