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2017 Annual Report and Financial Statements Launched

Nearly 1 in 5 Complaints about Doctors relate to Communication Issues

Medical Council Publishes Annual Report for 2017

Key findings for 2017 include:

  • 22,649 doctors on the Medical Register in 2017 – up 4% on 2016
  • 35% of Registered Doctors are 35 years or younger
  • 356 complaints received about Doctors
  • 82% of complaints received were from members of the public
  • More Doctors on Specialist Register than General Register for first time
  • Nine clinical training centres inspected across two Hospital Groups
  • 57 medical specialities recognised
  • Three Doctors removed from Register following Fitness to Practise Inquiry

Wednesday, 27th June, 2018: The Medical Council has today published its Annual Report and Financial Statements for 2017.

Speaking on publication of the Annual Report, Medical Council CEO, Mr Bill Prasifka said “2017 has been another busy year for the Medical Council in fulfilling our duel remit of protecting patients and supporting Doctors. We have seen a significant body of work carried out by the Council across all our functions including the maintenance of the Register of Medical Practitioners, monitoring the standards of undergraduate and specialist education and ensuring compliance with the maintenance of professional competence.”

“We have also had a busy year in the regulation of the professional standards of Medical Practitioners and although complaints were slightly down in 2017 on the previous year some areas of concern have emerged,” said Mr Prasifka.

Complaints received by the Medical Council about doctors are broken down into 44 different categories however 19% of all complaints fall into the category of communications. These complaints can vary in nature from a misunderstanding, a miscommunication, not explaining a diagnosis or treatment plan in an understandable or clear manner, a disagreement or simply a personality clash. In a large number of cases, these issues can be dealt with by a simple apology where appropriate or with mediation.

The Medical Councils Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics highlights that good communication is central to the doctor-patient relationship and essential to the effective functioning of healthcare teams. Good communication involves listening to patients and colleagues, as well as giving information, explanations or advice.

Mr Prasifka said “When communicating with patients, a doctor should be honest and give all relevant information. A doctor should welcome questions from patients and respond to them in an open, honest and comprehensive way.”

“However patients have a key role to play in maintaining good communications within the doctor-patient relationship. When you take a role in your own care and decisions about your treatment, you can improve your healthcare experience. Good communication is important for doctors to diagnose and treat you effectively.” concluded Mr Prasifka.

In addition to the Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics for Doctors, the Medical Council has a booklet for patients on their website which aims to help patients get the best health care through working in partnership with their doctors and other health professionals. It is also available in five languages.

The Medical Council is also working closely with the Post Graduate Training Bodies, encouraging them to run training programmes on good communications. The Council is also developing a number of new initiatives to support doctors by providing additional guidance to further enhance good communication skills with patients and their families.

The 2017 Annual Report also highlights developments in The Medical Council’s performance assessment procedures for registered medical practitioners.

In 2017, 13 cases were referred for performance assessment and covered a range of medical specialities. The performance assessment can incorporate a number of activities such as record review, case-based assessment, direct observation of the doctor, peer and patient feedback, and self-reflection. The performance assessment procedures available to the Medical Council seek to support the doctor in identifying areas for development in their day to day practice whilst also helping to reassure the public that doctors are keeping their knowledge and skills up to date.

The Medical Council conducted reaccreditation visits to two medical schools in 2017 to assess three undergraduate medical education and training programmes in total, namely the Direct Entry Programme at National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG); and both the Direct Entry and Graduate Entry Programmes at University College Cork.

The Medical Council also began a four-year schedule of clinical training site inspections in 2017. The Medical Council inspects clinical training sites where intern and specialist training are delivered. These sites, mainly HSE hospitals, are required to meet standards set by the Medical Council and the purpose of inspection visits is to assess if these standards are being upheld.

The Medical Council visited the Saolta University Healthcare Group in May 2017 and the South/Southwest Hospital Group in November 2017. A total of nine clinical training sites underwent a thorough inspection visit and the reports of these visits will be published in the near future.

For further information please contact:

Alan Gallagher, Head of Communications, Medical Council

01 498 3185 / 087 3615253

agallagher@mcirl.ie / communications@mcirl.ie