Medical Council finds no prima facie evidence to warrant further action in 70% of complaints in 2019

The Irish Medical Council found that there was no prima facie evidence to warrant further action being taken in 70% of the complaints made to it in 2019, according to its annual report for the year, writes Maureen Browne.

The Council received 431 new complaints in 2019,  – an increase of approximately 10% on the number of complaints received in 2018 – and a record number of complaints in a calendar year.

The complaints involved 485 doctors – around 2% of the 23,555 doctors registered with the Council, which is consistent with the percentage in previous years.

In respect of 47complaints, the PPC formed the opinion that there was prima facie evidence to warrant further action being taken and referred these matters to the Fitness to Practice Committee (FTPC) for inquiry.

The number of referrals to FTPC amounts to 12% of all PPC opinions formed in 2019 and is consistent with the average number of referrals made in previous years.

Members of the public were, once again, the highest source of complaints received by the Medical Council, totalling 83% of all complaints received. This is in line with both 2018 and 2017.

In recent years, the Council has received an increase in the number of complaints relating to ‘communications’ between doctor and patient.

The second highest source of complaints was from other members of the medical profession, which amounted to 6% of all complaints received. This is exactly double the amount of complaints received from medical professionals in 2018.

In recent years, the Council has received an increase in the number of complaints relating to ‘communications’ between doctor and patient – from 126 in 2017 to 170 in 2019. The Council says that “while it can empathise with the great pressure that is placed on our doctors, we cannot tolerate poor communication that undermines the important relationship between doctor and patient. Our role as a Council centers around protecting the public by promoting and better ensuring high standards of professional conduct and professional education, training and competence among doctors.”

A total of 2,260 doctors were registered by the Council in 2019, bringing the Register to a figure of 23,555.  A breakdown of the medical workforce showed that 57% were male and 43% female. The Council says it is  seeing a change of the gender balance within the profession, with a shifting of the gender profile with doctors in the youngest age group showing females in greater numbers than the males. Of the 8,399 doctors registered in the 20 -25 age group, 4,317 were female and 4,082 were male. The Council said this shift brought with it several benefits and challenges for policy makers and those responsible for workforce planning. The report showed that 36% of registered doctors were 35 years old or younger.

Fifty nine per cent of registered medical practitioners received their primary medical qualification in Ireland.   Twenty seven per cent of registered medical practitioners received their primary medical qualification outside of Ireland or another EU member State or European Economic Area country.