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The naming (shaming) game continues

In contrast, doctors are named and can be visually depicted, ie photographs and TV footage, while undergoing FTP hearings, which continue to garner significant media publicity.

Doctors have long argued that this is unfair, stressful, and inflicts reputational damage even when there are no negative findings against the doctor.

It is now ten years since the passing of the Medical Practitioners Act 2007, plenty of time to assess how the legislation has worked and to make changes where it has not.

After much pressure from the profession, former Minister for Health Leo Varadkar finally indicated two years ago that an amendment to anonymise the names of doctors while they were undergoing public FTP inquiries, was imminent. However, that has yet to happen.

Meanwhile, current Minister for Health Simon Harris last week signed the commencement order for the Medical Practitioners (Amendment) Act 2017, which came into effect on Monday, 6 November. This amendment outlines new mandatory legal requirements for all medical practitioners currently registered or applying to register with the Council regarding their levels of professional medical indemnity. This important change to the law ensures all registered medical practitioners have to be insured to treat patients and has been broadly welcomed. However, it has also caused frustration among doctors that the proposed naming amendments have not been given the same priority.

The Council itself has also long lobbied for amendments allowing more discretion regarding the whole FTP process and a less punitive complaints system with the Department. In the last few years there has been an upward trend in the number of FTP hearings held in private, so it appears to be taking a more flexible approach to the naming of doctors, and patients, involved in these cases.

As reported by this newspaper earlier this month, some 46 FTP inquiries were held in private between 2014 and 2016, 19 of which were at the request of doctors under inquiry.

In 2014, there were nine private inquiries, three requested by the doctor, in 2015, 12 private inquiries were held, seven requested by the doctor, while last year the number of private hearings rose to 25, with nine requested by the doctor.

It will be interesting to see how the new teacher FTP process works out and if it finally prompts the Government to prioritise making changes to the naming of medical practitioners undergoing public FTP inquiries.

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