Doctors told of ethical duty to report inept colleagues

Doctors have an ethical duty to report underperforming colleagues, it was announced today.

The Irish Medical Council is also calling for the prompt introduction of legalisation to add power to new random checks on medics.

The work of around 1,000 GPs, hospital consultants and public health doctors will be scrutinised by independent assessors.

But fears are still rife that rogue doctors will not come forward to take part in the voluntary scheme and slip through the net.

The new competence assurance programme will come into force during the summer and target doctors of all levels nationwide.

The Medical Council will write to doctors selected at random asking them to take part in a processes that assess their competence.

The doctors, medical and non-medical colleagues and patients will be questioned in confidence and any problems that arise – whether professional, personal or academic – will be addressed by the Performance Committee.

The Medical Council is the statutory body charged with protecting the public interest by ensuring doctors meet professional standards in their work.

Announcing the scheme, President Dr John Hillery said he feared some doctors may choose to opt out because of the increase in workloads, but believe co-operating on a voluntary basis will prove they are competent and confident.

Dr Hillery, who hopes new legislation will be revealed within months, said: “We want to ensure patients that we are doing what we are meant to be doing.

“We are calling on the Tánaiste to speedily bring forward the long-promised legislation to replace the 1978 Medical Practitioners Act and to give statutory powers to our Competence and Health Procedures.

He hoped to reassure patients that the scheme will highlight problems before any real harm is caused to a member of the public.

Urging medics to expose concerns over colleagues, Dr Hillery said they had an ethical obligation to protect the public.

Up to 10,000 doctors registered with the Medical Council are eligible to be chosen for the pilot scheme, which will begin during the summer. It is estimated up to 500 concerns a year could be raised, with 50 on a serious level which could lead to retraining.

Dr John Hillery said most doctors were willing to take part but it could not compel everybody to participate under current laws.

“Most Irish doctors are willing to take part in this. Our fitness to practise procedures are very reactive and this is a proactive process,” he added.


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