Complaints against doctors to Medical Council up 11 per cent last year

Consultant alleged to have made multiple remarks on sex, gender, and maternity leave

Medical Council chief executive Bill Prasifka said most complaints against doctors related to “communication issues”.

Medical Council chief executive Bill Prasifka said most complaints against doctors related to “communication issues”.

 

There was an 11 per cent increase in the number of complaints against doctors last year, according to the regulator’s annual report.

The Medical Council, which has a mandate to protect the public by promoting and ensuring high standards of professional conduct and competence among doctors, published its annual report on Tuesday.

It showed that the council received 396 complaints about doctors in 2018, as compared with 356 the year before. However, the figure is still below that of 2016 when the council dealt with 411 complaints.

In one case last year, described in the annual report, a non-consultant hospital doctor submitted a complaint against a senior consultant. He said he witnessed “multiple occasions” of inappropriate behaviour on the part of the consultant during a period in 2017.

The complainant stated that these instances of inappropriate behaviour included remarks regarding maternity leave, remarks regarding the gender of non-consultant staff working for him, and remarks regarding various instances of sexual behaviour.

The complainant sought to withdraw the complaint after a period of time, but, due to the serious nature of the allegations, the Medical Council said it proceeded as if the complaint had not been withdrawn.

The council formed the opinion that the complaint should be referred to a professional competence scheme for performance assessment.

It was satisfied that performance assessment should be carried out on the grounds of leadership in the workplace, relationships and team working, leading and managing teams, and working in teams.

Five struck off

Of the 396 complaints made last year, 331 were made by members of the public, which was up from 293 in 2017 and 316 in 2016. Another 13 were made by healthcare professionals, while 32 more came to light through the media or otherwise.

Most of the complaints related to “communication issues” totalling 19 per cent of complaints. There were 13 complaints related to “physical and intimate examinations”, which was up from 10 in 2017 and three in 2016.

Another 55 complaints related to “treating patients with dignity”, which was up from 47 in 2017 and 27 in 2016.

There were 29 fitness to practice inquiries completed during the year, which was down from 42 in 2017 and 46 in 2016.

There were 11 findings of “professional misconduct”, up from a single case in 2017, but down on 2016 when there were 17 findings of misconduct.

In addition, there was a finding of “poor professional performance” in seven cases, up from four in 2017 and 11 in 2016.

Five doctors had their registration cancelled following inquiries, which was up from three in 2017, but down slightly on six the year before.

There were 22,996 doctors on the medical register at the end of the year, up slightly from 22,649 in 2017. Almost six in ten doctors on the register were men.

Some 58 per cent received their primary medical qualification in the Republic; 14 per cent from another EU member state or a nation in the European Economic Area; and 28 per cent from another country.

Medical Council chief executive Bill Prasifka said the “safe start” campaign had been launched during the year, which is aimed at doctors new to practicing in the Republic, and includes “lessons on prescribing, consent, and professional conduct and ethics”.