Press Release

Minister for Health publishes Regulated Professions (Health and Social Care) (Amendment) Bill 2019

Minister for Health Simon Harris TD has today welcomed the publication of the Regulated Professions (Health and Social Care) (Amendment) Bill 2019.

The Bill, which has been approved by Cabinet, amends the five health professional regulatory Acts, in particular in relation to fitness to practise and registration.

The key amendments include:

• Applicants for registration must declare on application, and annually thereafter, any convictions, or sanctions imposed on their practise by a regulatory body (inside or outside the State);
• Disciplinary inquiries in other jurisdictions can be used as admissible evidence in fitness to practise proceedings in Ireland;
• All sanctions will be published to ensure the public has access to information about disciplinary sanctions imposed on doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and other regulated health professionals;
• Practitioners will have the right to appeal to the High Court when minor sanctions of advice, admonishment or a censure in writing have been imposed on a practitioner. Currently there is no right of appeal for these sanctions.

The five acts are the Dentists Act 1985, the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005; the Pharmacy Act 2007; the Medical Practitioners Act 2007; and the Nurses and Midwives Act 2011.

Minister Harris said “This is 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.

“I look forward to progressing this important piece of legislation to ensure the regulation of our health care professions is as robust as possible. This is good for the profession and for the patient.”

A number of other amendments will be made to speed up the fitness to practise process for medical practitioners, nurses and midwives.

The Bill will also amend the Health Act 1953 to remove specific requirements regarding the composition of interview boards for consultant posts in teaching hospitals. The current requirement under the Act in relation to board composition has resulted in delays in establishing interview panels, which is having a knock-on effect on consultant recruitment. This amendment should speed up the recruitment process.

The text of the Bill and its Explanatory Memorandum are available on the Department of Health website.

Ends

Notes to the Editor

The specific purpose of this Bill is to amend the five health professional regulatory Acts (the Dentists Act 1985, the Health and Social Care Professionals Act 2005; the Pharmacy Act 2007; the Medical Practitioners Act 2007; and the Nurses and Midwives Act 2011). A number of the amendments are resulting from the modernised Professional Qualifications Directive (2013/55/EU), which Ireland transposed into law in January 2017.

It is now necessary to ensure that all relevant health legislation reflects the changes brought about by the modernised Directive, which builds on the existing Professional Qualifications Directive (2005/36/EC), which came into force in 2005, and sets out how professional qualifications are recognised across Member States.

The Bill also makes a number of other amendments to each of the five health professional regulatory Acts in respect of a number of matters, mainly related to fitness to practise and registration.

As Britain prepares to leave the European Union, the Professional Qualifications Directive, which provides for the mutual recognition of qualifications, will no longer apply to the UK as a full Member State, but rather as a third country. A number of provisions in this Bill which relate to third countries will therefore become relevant to the UK post-Brexit. These are important given the volume of movement of health professionals between Ireland and the UK. As a third country, the UK will no longer report restrictions or prohibitions on practise under the Alerts system of the Professional Qualifications Directive. However. Irish regulatory bodies need to be aware of restrictions/prohibitions on the practise of any registrant or applicant for registration, including those from third countries. The Bill is therefore providing for declarations in relation to restrictions/ prohibitions on practise to be made by all registrants or applicants for registration. Restrictions/prohibitions on practice are also being included as a ground for complaint under fitness to practise.