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Recognition of Specialties - Process Explained

Recognition of medical specialties is an important step in the development of programmes of specialist training, and it is the completion of such programmes which enables doctors to register as specialist practitioners. Council currently recognises 52 medical specialties.


The Medical Council has established a policy and process that assesses the strength of each application against a series of criteria. The process is comprised of two stages. At the first stage, applicants must provide evidence to Council that the proposed specialty meets certain criteria. These ‘indicators’ are grouped under four themes and require an application to establish the following:

  1. That the proposed specialty is a well-defined, distinct and legitimate area of medical practice with a sustainable base in the medical profession
  2. That specialisation in this area of medicine is demonstrably contributing to substantial improvements in the quality and safety of healthcare
  3. That specialisation in this area of medicine is demonstrably contributing to substantial improvements in the standards of medical practice
  4. That recognition of the specialty would be a wise use of resources


An application that is considered to have met these criteria proceeds to the second stage. A more detailed analysis of an application occurs at this stage, and there is also a period of public consultation during which interested parties may view the application and provide feedback to Council. Assessors from outside the State with expertise in the relevant discipline are also consulted during this stage.

Before making a decision, the Medical Council determines the support that currently exists or that will exist for a programme in the proposed specialty. A recognised postgraduate training body must formally support the proposed specialty. Furthermore, Council engages with the Health Service Executive to determine the health service need for the proposed specialty, the funding available to support training programmes, and the sustainability of training.

Council considers all feedback before making a final decision; once a decision has been made, the Medical Council must seek the consent of the Minister of Health.

‘Neonatology’ and’ Intensive Care Medicine’ are both at a very advanced stage of the recognition process. The consultation period for ‘Pain Medicine’ has recently concluded as part of the stage two assessment.