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Call for enhanced medico-legal training for surgical trainees

By Mindo - 06th Apr 2021

Asian doctor and an assistant in the operating room for surgical venous vascular surgery clinic in hospital.

There is a need to provide dedicated resources and training for surgical trainees “in the areas of risk management and open disclosure”, the IMO has told the Medical Independent (MI). A survey of trainees’ perception of medico-legal practice in surgery, published in the February edition of the Irish Medical Journal (IMJ), found 33 per cent of trainees had already received medico-legal correspondence and 96 per cent expected to be sued in the future. Two-thirds stated the issue had made them more risk adverse.

The study was conducted by the Department of Trauma and Orthopaedics, Tallaght University Hospital. It concluded that “most surgical trainees across all levels and subspecialties anticipate medico-legal involvement during their careers”.

“Enhanced medico-legal understanding through dedicated training may aid in the minimisation of risk, enhancement of patient safety and positive resolution for all parties,” according to the IMJ article. A spokesperson for the IMO told MI there “is definitely a need to provide dedicated resources and training in the areas of risk management, open disclosure, and learning following an adverse event”.

“There is also a need to provide additional supports for patients and doctors following adverse events including emotional and psychological supports.

“A formal debriefing should be provided for trainees involved in an adverse event as well as access to employee assistance programmes.”

The Civil Liability (Amendment) Act 2017 provides certain protections to healthcare professionals when making a voluntary open disclosure in accordance with the Act.

“However, unfortunately the forms and procedures for open disclosure under the Act are not conducive to an open and honest conversation following an adverse event,” said the IMO spokesperson.

“The Minister for Health recently announced that the Patient Safety (Notifiable Patient Safety Incidents) Bill is due to come before the Oireachtas health committee and will require careful scrutiny to ensure it is fit-for-purpose.”

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