Parliamentary Questions for the Minister for Health (James Reilly TD)
For WRITTEN ANSWER on 29/05/2014
Question 1: To ask the Minister for Health the number of complaints to the Medical Council that were being considered by the preliminary proceedings committee are now not being considered as a result of the Corbally ruling; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Question 2: To ask the Minister for Health the number of fitness to practice inquiries of the Medical Council that have been directly affected to date by the Corbally ruling, that is, the number of inquiries that have been adjourned; the number of inquiries that will not progress; the number of inquiries that have been discontinued; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
I propose to answer both Questions together.
The Medical Practitioners Act 2007 provides for a number of grounds for complaint in relation to medical practitioners. One of the grounds of complaint is ‘poor professional performance’. The Court in Corballywas asked to consider whether a single error could constitute ‘poor professional performance’. The Court found that a single error or lapse in performance will constitute ‘poor professional performance’ if it is serious.
The Department has been in contact with the Medical Council on this issue since February 2014 and discussions are continuing in this regard. The Medical Council has advised me that it has appealed the High Court decision in Corbally v Medical Council to the Supreme Court, and given the importance of this ruling to patients in Ireland, an expedited date for the hearing is currently being sought. The Council strives to carry out its work in an open and transparent manner and publishes comprehensive statistics in relation to the outcomes of its complaints and inquiry process every year in its annual report. The Council will continue to monitor the impact of the ruling on its ability to handle complaints. The Council will continue to investigate every complaint it receives in a thorough manner and all complaints to the Medical Council will continue to be considered by the Preliminary Proceedings Committee. Any complaint, relating to a single error, referred to the Fitness to Practise Committee on the grounds of ‘poor professional performance’ must be taken on its own merits as to whether in that case the single error can constitute ‘poor professional performance’ or not.
The Medical Council has appealed the Court’s finding in Corbally to the Supreme Court and, accordingly, the matter is sub judice.