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Irish Medical Council publishes new sanctions guidance

Updated: 4 days ago

By IMC Editorial Staff - Irish Medical Council - 31/05/2024 - [PREVENTION] New guidance to assist the Medical Council in making decisions on fitness-to-practice inquiries have been issued.


The revised document focusses on sanctions, looking at the purpose and approach taken to such penalties, and factors to be considered when deciding on sanctions. The guidance also covers cases which may result in a more serious sanction being imposed.


“We have focused on clarifying the existing guidance and increasing transparency around the Medical Council’s role in the Fitness to Practice process,” said Mairead Britton-Doyle, head of fitness-to-practice and monitoring at the Medical Council.


“This document aims to be more accessible for both the public and doctors, and will help those engaging with the Medical Council to better understand our processes.”


Dr Suzanne Crowe, Medical Council president


Medical Council president Dr Suzanne Crowe added: “One of the important statutory functions placed on the Medical Council is determining a doctor’s fitness to practice following the investigation of a complaint and fitness-to-practice inquiry. We’re very much aware of the difficulties that can be involved in going through the fitness-to-practice process for both doctors and complainants.


“The publication of this guidance today increases the transparency around the decision-making processes of the Council when it comes to sanctioning a doctor. Indemnifiers are there for doctors to engage with for support, guidance, and representation throughout the Fitness to Practice inquiry process, which is complex and legalistic.”


The document highlights categories of sanctions, ranging from advice or censure, to temporary suspension or the cancellation of a clinician’s registration with the Medical Council, meaning they are not allowed to work as a medical practitioner in Ireland.


The guidance outlines both mitigating and aggravating factors that may affect the level of sanction imposed on a clinician found to have had their fitness to practice impaired following an inquiry.


While mitigating factors may include no previous history of poor practice, particular circumstances, or the doctor’s efforts to address concerns around their conduct or skills, aggravating factors such as previous findings or a refusal of the accused to accept mistakes or apologise may lead to more serious penalties.


According to the document, “There are certain cases which, by their nature, are considered more serious when balanced against the public interest, and therefore may lead the Council to impose a more severe level of sanctions.”


Such cases may include instances of dishonesty, sexual misconduct or drug or alcohol abuse, the guidance added.


The Medical Council Sanctions Guidance can be found here. If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can contact Dignity4Patients, whose helpline is open Monday to Thursday 10am to 4pm.

 
 

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