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Dr Ide Delargy, Medical Director of the Practitioner Health Matters Programme (PHMP), said it can be a “terrifying” experience for doctors to receive an unexpected letter with the Council’s logo. She said that sometimes, a letter from a regulator can be “a tipping-point” for a healthcare professional who “may be in a vulnerable place”.
Dr Delargy said that, in recent months, the PHMP was involved in a “very good collaborative meeting” with the medical, dental and pharmacy regulators, where this issue was raised.
She said sensitivity to the manner in which the communication style may impact on the practitioner was discussed, while also acknowledging that regulators had a remit to fulfil.
“We have been in contact with Dr Justin Brophy, Chair of the Forum [of Irish Postgraduate Medical Training Bodies] and Lead for the NOSP Connect Strategy regarding training for Medical Council staff dealing directly with registered medical practitioners,” according to a Medical Council spokesperson. “The Forum of Irish Postgraduate Medical Training Bodies, National Doctors Training and Planning (NDTP) and the Medical Council are all working collaboratively to support doctors’ health and wellbeing, which includes a review of our written communications with doctors.”
The Council is also “looking at ways to further support the Practitioner Health Matters Programme”.
The regulator has a Health Committee which monitors and advises the Council about the health of individual doctors with identified health problems.
Some 45 doctors were engaged with this Committee at the end of 2016, according to the Council’s annual report 2017.
“There is good evidence that doctors with health-related problems, especially substance misuse, have good outcomes with the correct interventions, balanced on occasion with the involvement of the relevant regulatory authority,” according to the Council’s spokesperson.
“Fortunately, most doctors are in good health, but they are subject to the same illnesses as their patients. Most doctors who suffer illness will recognise that they have an illness, will attend their GP, consultant or occupational health physician and comply with the appropriate treatments and recommendations. This may include taking time off work or indeed changing the nature of their work, either temporarily or permanently.”