Medical Council concerned over unqualified doctors

Regulator powerless when non-specialist doctors appointed to consultant posts

At least 65 non-specialist doctors have been appointed  consultants  in recent years. Photograph: Thinkstock

At least 65 non-specialist doctors have been appointed consultants in recent years. Photograph: Thinkstock

 

The Medical Council has expressed concern about the number of doctors working as specialists even though they are not on its specialist register.

However, the council says there is little it can do about the issue, which is primarily a matter for employers to resolve.

Chief executive Bill Prasifka said the term “consultant” is not defined in the Medical Practitioners Act under which the council operates, so it has no direct role in intervening where non-specialist doctors are appointed to consultant posts.

At least 65 non-specialist doctors have been appointed to consultant posts in recent years, including 12 psychiatrists, 10 surgeons, seven anaesthetists and six obstetricians, according to the Health Service Executive. The practice has prompted concerns about patient safety and possible exposure of the HSE to legal action.

Speaking at the launch of the council’s annual report, Mr Prasifka said the Act was clear in saying that doctors could not hold themselves out as specialists unless they are on the council’s specialist register. However, there was nothing in the legislation that required a consultant to be on the specialist register.

“We would be very concerned if doctors operating at a very senior level do not have the requisite qualifications, but there is nothing formal we can do about that.”

The council does have power to inspect hospitals where doctor training takes place and can check whether the doctors giving the training are in fact specialists. Potentially, it could use its powers here, he said.