Press Release

New statutory requirements for maintenance of professional competence of all registered medical practitioners

The Minister for Health & Children, Mary Harney T.D., has signed the commencement order which will bring into operation, on 1 May 2010, all remaining provisions of the Medical Practitioners Act 2007. These provisions relate to the maintenance of professional competence of registered medical practitioners.

The Minister said: ‘The commencement of these provisions of the Medical Practitioners Act 2007 will introduce, for the first time, a statutory requirement for doctors to maintain their professional competence.

“This is a significant step in implementing a modern, reformed system of regulation for the medical profession which will satisfy the public and the profession that medical practitioners are appropriately qualified and competent to practise in a safe manner on a continuing basis.”

Following the commencement of these provisions, the Medical Council will be required to develop, establish and operate one or more schemes of professional competence.There will be an obligation on the Health Service Executive and other employers to facilitate the maintenance of professional competence of medical practitioners.

All medical practitioners will be required to maintain their professional standards and competence on an ongoing basis.The establishment of professional competence structures will require much commitment from all parties: individual doctors and the teams within which they work, their employers, the medical specialist training bodies and the Medical Council as the regulating competent authority of the profession.

The Minister thanked the Medical Council for the significant work it has carried out in preparation for the introduction of professional competence schemes. These schemes will be a central feature of the patient safety and quality assurance agenda.

Background

The Medical Practitioners Act 2007 (Commencement) Order 2010 was signed by the Minister and brings into effect, on 1 May 2010, Part 11 and related provisions of the Medical Practitioners Act 2007.

Within one year of the commencement of these provisions, the Medical Council will be required to develop, establish and operate one or more schemes of competence assurance; to submit it to the Minister for consideration; and to develop statutory rules regarding the operation of the scheme which must be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The Council may recognise medical education and training bodies for the purposes of assisting the Council in performing its functions.

All registered medical practitioners will be required to maintain their professional competence on an ongoing basis and to co-operate with any rules or requirements in relation to a scheme in this regard.

A link to the Fitness to Practise system is provided where issues arise in relation to individual medical practitioners following participation in a scheme.

Provisions which protect confidentiality in relation to participation in schemes relating to the maintenance of professional standards and competence are included.