Priority hearing for Medical Council appeal

Consultant challenges finding of poor professional performance

Chief Justice Susan Denham said the court would hear the appeal as soon as possible. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Chief Justice Susan Denham said the court would hear the appeal as soon as possible. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Fri, May 30, 2014, 01:00

The Supreme Court is to give a priority hearing to the Medical Council’s appeal against a High Court decision overturning a finding of poor professional performance against consultant paediatrician Prof

Martin Corbally because of the “very significant” implications of that finding for the wider medical and healthcare professions.

In his judgment on Prof Corbally’s action, the president of the High Court gave the first ever courts’ interpretation of the meaning of “poor professional performance” in the 2007 Medical Practitioners Act.

Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns indicated any such finding could, in certain circumstances, be based on a fair sample of a doctor’s work rather than a once-off incident that was not very serious.

Chief Justice Susan Denham said the court would hear the appeal as soon as possible for the reasons outlined by the council and because of the impact on Prof Corbally.  She hoped to fix a hearing in the next court term, which ends on July 31st.

Professional performance

Prof Corbally challenged the finding of poor professional performance made against him after another doctor carried out an incorrect “tongue-tie” procedure on a young patient of Prof Corbally’s. 

In his judgment, Mr Justice Kearns found the finding “disproportionate” and not reasonable and amounted to blaming Prof Corbally for systems failures at Our Lady’s hospital, Crumlin, for which he was not responsible.

Corrective surgery was quickly carried out by Dr Corbally on the two-year-old girl who had made a full recovery, he noted.

That finding is of significant importance to the Medical Council as the “vast” number of cases where poor professional performance is alleged are based on a single incident, Patrick Leonard SC, for the council, told the Chief Justice.

If the High Court decision is upheld, that would effectively mean there would be no inquiries into allegations of poor professional performance with very significant effects for the regulation of 18,000 doctors in the country and also for nurses, midwives and pharmacists, he said.