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Message from President

This year has seen many developments for the Medical Council and both Council and staff have worked vigorously throughout the year to meet our objectives while ensuring we operated in such a way that was consistent with our vision, mission and values.

The Council's main purpose is to protect the public by promoting and better ensuring high standards of professional conduct and professional education, training and competence among doctors. We must create a safety culture and fundamental to this is openness and transparency. To emphasise the importance of patient safety, the Medical Council held a Patient Safety and Leadership conference in October. Astronaut Eileen Collins spoke about high performing teams, depicting her voyages into space while illustrating how   important leadership skills, people skills and integrity were throughout the course of her missions.  Dr Kevin Stewart spoke evocatively about how he led a team in a time of crisis by adopting an ‘open as possible’ style strategy. My colleague on the Council, Margaret Murphy spoke from the Patient’s perspective, describing the experience of losing her son and the absolute need to validate the patient experience. She emphasised that refusing ‘to learn is truly inexcusable’ and how we must use the past to inform the future. Another strong theme coming from the day was that of open disclosure. Open disclosure is not about blame, it is about communicating in an open, honest and timely manner with family members and peers for the benefit of every party.  Leaders must insist on transparency and open disclosure in relation to errors, serious incidents, and problems and regard mistakes as opportunities for learning. A culture of ‘speaking out’ needs to be fostered and doctors need to act without delay in order to begin to rectify a mistake or problem that has arisen.

As part of our duty to safeguard patients, we must ensure standards of practice are maintained to keep public trust and confidence intact. I’d like to cite one strong example of this that really struck me. Earlier this year, in the High Court, In the Matter of Patrick Enright vs the Law Society of Ireland sought to have Mr Enright’s name struck off the Role of Solicitors. This followed a finding by the Solicitor’s Disciplinary Tribunal and the recommendation by the Tribunal that his name be struck off. Mr Enright, following his qualification as a solicitor in 1986, went to work for an American Medical Insurance Company located in Kerry. He left that company in 1994 and established his own legal practise in Castleisland in County Kerry. It transpired that he had defrauded the American Insurance Company and was charged with acts of forgery under the Forgery Act 1913. Following his conviction, he served his sentence and had not practised since he was released from prison in 2014.

The President of the High Court, Mr Justice Kelly, agreed with the Law Society’s submission and said that the sanction sought was “the most fundamental of all “In order to maintain the reputation of the profession and sustain public confidence in the integrity of the profession. The President went to say that he “…shared (the Society’s) …opinion that it is necessary that Mr Enright’s name be struck from the roll of solicitors. A suspension from practice would not be adequate.” The President of the High Court noted that while he was satisfied that there was no risk of the Solicitor re-offending, and while sanction was not intended to be punitive, the sanction was necessary to uphold the integrity of the profession in the eyes of the public, and I think this is a very strong and important message and is a demonstration of probity at its best.

Finally, I would like to take the opportunity to again thank the Council and staff for their continuous commitment to the Medical Council’s purpose of safeguarding patients. We look forward to another busy year ahead and I’m confident that 2017 will be bring about a year of great progression and accomplishments. 

Professor Freddie Wood

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