The Medical Council investigates complaints made against medical practitioners; the most common grounds of complaint are professional misconduct and poor professional performance.
Professional Misconduct is defined by the Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics as:
- Conduct which doctors of experience, competence and good repute consider disgraceful or dishonourable; and/or
- Conduct connected with his or her profession in which the doctor concerned has seriously fallen short by omission or commission of the standards of conduct expected amongst doctors
Poor professional performance is defined by the Medical Practitioners Act 2007 as:
A failure by the practitioner to meet the standards of competence (whether in knowledge and skill or the application of knowledge and skill or both) that can reasonably be expected of a medical practitioner practising medicine of the kind practiced by the practitioner.
Advice in the event of a complaint
It is critical that you do not ignore a complaint made against you of which you are notified by the Medical Council.
No matter how trivial the complaint may seem, the Medical Council are under a duty to investigate the matter and to provide clear reasons if the Council decides not to take further action. Therefore, it is necessary to respond in a careful and detailed manner to any complaint, no matter how insignificant or unfounded it may appear to you.
Early notification is also extremely important to ensure the provision of cover by Medisec.
If you wish to supply information which you believe is relevant to the complaint in accordance with the procedures set out below, it is important to seek legal advice before doing so.
If you wish to supply information to the Medical Council it is also very important that before doing so you conduct a thorough review of all records you hold as well as any additional information relating to the complaint in order to provide an accurate response, as this information is likely to be relied on by the Council in the event of a hearing of the Fitness to Practice Committee.
Medisec is aware that having a complaint made against you can be very stressful. However only a small percentage of complaints result in hearings of the Fitness to Practice Committee.
Timely communication and engagement with Medisec is key to increasing the prospect of a positive outcome in relation to any complaint.
If a complaint is made to the Medical Council against a medical practitioner, the following procedure is adopted:
The Preliminary Proceedings Committee will notify the practitioner against whom a complaint is made of the nature of the complaint and the identity of the complainant
The medical practitioner may supply any information the practitioner believes is relevant to the PPC.
The PPC will consider the complaint and may ask for more information. Under the Medical Practitioners Act 2007, a practitioner is obliged to furnish additional information sought by the PPC.
If the PPC believes there is a case which warrants further action being taken, it will refer the complaint to the Fitness to Practice Committee.
IF the PPC believes either that:
- there is not a case which warrants further action being taken
- the complaint should be referred to another body or authority or a professional competence scheme
- the matter could be resolved by mediation or informal means
the PPC will inform the Council of that opinion.
If the PPC forms the opinion that no further action should be taken in relation to a complaint, the committee is required to give reasons for this opinion
The Medical Council may then decide
- either to make a direction in accordance with the opinion of the PPC or
- to refer the matter to the Fitness to Practice Committee
If the matter is referred to the Fitness to Practice Committee, the practitioner will be furnished with a Notice of Inquiry which will detail the nature of the allegations against the practitioner and the evidence to be called in support of those allegations including witnesses.
The Fitness to Practice Committee is made up of 2 lay members and 1 medical practitioner. A legal assessor advises the committee on legal issues which may arise but is not involved in the decision making process.
The Fitness to Practice Committee may, after a complaint has been referred to it, request the medical practitioner in question to:
- Undertake not to repeat the conduct the subject matter of the complaint
- Undertake to be referred to a professional competence scheme
- Consent to undergo medical treatment
- Consent to being censured by the Council
Hearings before the Fitness to Practice Inquiry are usually held in public
At the conclusion of a hearing, the Fitness to Practice committee prepares a report for the Council which will include a finding as to whether any of the allegations are proven.
The Medical Council can impose the following sanctions:
- Advice, admonishment or censure
- Censure and fine of up to €5,000
- Attachment of conditions
- Transfer of the practitioner’s registration to another division of the Register
- A prohibition from applying for a specified period for restoration of the practitioner’s registration
A practitioner has 21 days from notification of the decision of the Council to appeal the decision to the High Court.
380 complaints were received by the Medical Council in 2011. Of the 367 in respect of which the PPC made decisions, 39 complaints were referred to the Fitness to Practice Committee.