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Major changes on way for Medical Practitioners Act

A Scheme of a Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, which will amend all health professionals’ regulatory acts, with a number of planned amendments to the Medical Practitioners Act 2007, is in the early stages of drafting. The Bill is due before the end of the year and is expected to be laid before the Oireachtas in January 2016, MI was informed by President of the Medical Council Prof Freddie Wood. He said while it is not certain what will be in the Bill until it is published, “I feel the Department certainly listened to the Council and our suggestions”.

In relation to fitness to practice (FTP), it is proposed to amend all health regulatory acts to provide for an appeal to the High Court for the minor sanctions of advice or admonishment or a censure in writing, while a number of other “technical amendments” are also being proposed, a Department of Health spokesperson told MI.

In relation to registration, it is proposed to remove the equivalence of the certificate of experience as a route to registration on the General Division and to remove the requirement to have the equivalence of the Certificate of Experience for entry to the Trainee Specialist Division, subject to Government approval.

This proposed change, which has been long lobbied for, would make the registration process much easier for overseas doctors seeking access to the Trainee Specialist Division.

The February Supreme Court judgement in the case of Prof Martin Corbally is also currently being examined by the Department and its legal advisors. Work to identify what amendments may be required in light of the judgement is ongoing, and the Department is continuing to work with the Medical Council to progress this issue, a Department spokesperson told MI.

Barrister Dr Simon Mills, who specialises in regulatory law, agreed the Council’s current complaints process “can be very legalistic and adversarial”, and that the legislature may have to go back to the drawing board to redefine poor professional performance (PPP) following the Supreme Court judgement.

While there had been fears that more doctors who had been found guilty of PPP would challenge their cases following the judgement confirming that PPP must be of a “serious” nature, the Council told MI that, to date, it has had no legal notices of any challenges.

Dr Mills noted the complaints system is not currently set up to deal with doctors who want to make early admissions to complaints and perhaps an amendment on this could be included in the planned legislation.

“Certainly, an amendment to the effect that a practitioner who wants to ‘come clean’ early on in circumstances where it would be in the public interest to allow that [to negate the need for a full FTP hearing and proceed to sanctioning] should be given consideration,” Dr Mills told MI.

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