Health professionals will have to declare overseas convictions

Inquiries in other jurisdictions to be admissible in fitness-to-practise cases – new Bill

The Bill also addresses issues relating to professional qualifications that are likely to arise after Brexit. Photograph: Frank Miller

The Bill also addresses issues relating to professional qualifications that are likely to arise after Brexit. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

Doctors and other healthcare professionals will have to declare any convictions or criminal sanctions they have before being allowed to register in the State, under new legislation published today.

Disciplinary inquiries in other jurisdictions can be used as admissible evidence in Irish fitness-to-practise proceedings, under the new proposals.

However, fitness-to-practise committees will also be given the power to order that some or all of the information at a hearing not be published.

All disciplinary sanctions imposed on doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and other regulated health professionals will be published to ensure the public has access to this information, under the Regulated Professions (Health and Social Care) (Amendment) Bill 2019.

Practitioners will have the right to appeal to the High Court even minor sanctions of advice, admonishment or censure against them. Currently there is no right of appeal for these sanctions.

The Bill addresses issues relating to professional qualifications that are likely to arise after Brexit. Presuming the UK leaves the EU in March, the professional qualifications directive, which provides for the mutual recognition of qualifications, will apply to it as a third country rather than as a full member state.

As a third country it will no longer report restrictions on practice on health professionals as happens now under an alert system of the directive. Irish authorities are concerned about the potential information vacuum this could create, given the volume of movement of health workers between Ireland and the UK.

Restriction on practice

To ensure Irish regulators are aware of any restriction applying to a particular health worker, the Bill provides for practitioners to declare any such issue when registering here.

Restriction or prohibitions on practice are also being included as a ground for complaint under fitness to practise.

Welcoming the publication of the Bill, Minister for Health Simon Harris said it was an important piece of legislation both for the public and for health professionals.

“It will offer patients reassurance knowing they have information about all sanctions imposed on health professionals they are seeing, while also giving health professionals the right to appeal minor sanctions.”

The Bill, which has been approved by Cabinet, also includes amendments designed to speed up disciplinary processes for doctors, nurses and midwives, and reduced delays in establishing interview panels for consultant posts, which is having a knock-on effect on recruitment.