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Fitness to Practise Inquiries more likely for certain groups of doctors

The report, ‘Listening to Complaints’, has analysed some 2,000 complaints about doctors over a five-year period (2008-2012).

The number of doctors complained about to the Medical Council rose from 335 in 2008 to 488 in 2012.

Certain groups of doctors were more likely to be the subject of a complaint; males, older doctors, doctors who qualified in Ireland and specialists.

For doctors subject to a complaint in the review period, the likelihood of being subject to at least one further complaint was 21 per cent.

In the period 2008-2012, some 11 per cent of cases considered by the Preliminary Proceedings Committee (PPC) went forward to inquiry by the Fitness to Practise Committee (a ‘high impact’ decision).

Certain groups of doctors were more likely to be subject to a high impact decision by the PPC; males, younger doctors, doctors who qualified outside Ireland and non-specialists.

Common motivations for complaints arose from poor experiences of doctors’ attitudes and behaviours.

Further findings from the report included that male doctors were over twice as likely to be the subject of a complaint in comparison to their female counterparts. Complaints against male doctors were also more likely to proceed to Fitness to Practise Inquiry.

Of 221 complaints which proceeded to inquiry by the Fitness to Practise Committee from 2008-2012, some 68 per cent resulted in findings being made in relation to doctors’ practice and sanctions were applied in all cases by the Medical Council.

Complaints from the HSE and other healthcare organisations were more likely to proceed to Fitness to Practise Inquiry and were also more likely to result in a finding about the doctor’s practise. However, only 3 per cent of complaints made to the Medical Council were from the HSE and other healthcare organisations.

The report was launched at a seminar which included presentations from regulatory experts.

Medical Council member and patient safety advocate Ms Margaret Murphy emphasised the need for open disclosure and transparency following medical errors and bad outcomes. She also remarked that mediation was not reaching its full potential within the Council’s current processes, and hoped legislative amendments would address this.

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