The Medical Practitioners Act 2007 is the legislation governing the Medical Council’s work and determines the Divisions of the Register and the terms and conditions for registration of medical doctors on the Register. At a European level EU legislation provides for freedom of movement of professions, including doctors, among Member States. The Medical Council is the statutory body regulating medical doctors ensuring compliance with the Act.
The Medical Council and medical practitioners are legally bound by the provisions of the Medical Practitioners Act 2007 and must comply with the Act. Part 6 of the Act provides for the registration of medical practitioners. The Medical Council registers eligible medical practitioners in the appropriate Division of the Register, on fulfilling the application requirements.
The Medical Practitioners Act 2007 introduced a very significant change in the regulatory model for the medical profession in Ireland, providing for an enhanced and modern system of regulation. It ensures the protection of the public as the Act states that the object of the Medical Council is to protect the public by promoting and better ensuring high standards of professional conduct and professional education, training and competence among registered medical practitioners. Another reform in the Act was the change to membership of the Council in order to provide for a non-medical majority on the Council. It is comprised of 13 non-medical members and 12 medical members. Medical practitioners work with other people of standing and expertise on the Council to advance the interests of patients and the public.
A key responsibility of the Medical Council is to investigate complaints against medical doctors.
Prior to the 2007 Act, Fitness to Practice hearings were heard in private. Since the commencement of the Act, a hearing before the Fitness to Practice Committee, which are established to inquire into a complaint, are held in public generally except in some circumstances as set out in the 2007 Act. In addition to this the Act requires that the majority of the membership of the Fitness to Practice Committee shall consist of persons who are not medical practitioners.
The 2007 Act also introduced the requirement for all registered doctors to comply and maintain professional competence.
At the end of 2018 there were 22,996 doctors registered with the Medical Council. In 2018 there were 396 complaints received against doctors.
It is my view that the Medical Council is an effective regulatory body under the aegis of my Department. The significant changes brought about in the Medical Practitioners Act 2007 reformed the regulation of medical doctors in Ireland to ensure there is no self regulation and to protect the public.