About the Medical Council
The Medical Council is responsible for the regulation of doctors in Ireland. Main responsibilities include:
- Protecting the public by promoting and ensuring the highest professional standards amongst doctors
- Maintaining the Register of Medical Practitioners
- Specifying and reviewing standards for the maintenance of professional competence
- Setting and monitoring standards for medical education, training, conduct and ethics
- Investigating complaints and instituting disciplinary procedures
Who can make a complaint to the Medical Council?
Anyone can make a complaint to the Medical Council about a doctor. This includes members of the public, employers and other healthcare professionals. More information can be found in the Medical Council’s guide, “Making a complaint about a doctor” (pdf).
The complaints procedure
When the Medical Council receives a complaint about a doctor, the Preliminary Proceedings Committee (PPC) of the Medical Council will look into the complaint.
The PPC looks into complaints made about a doctor (or doctors) on one or more of the following grounds:
- Professional Misconduct
- Poor Professional Performance
- A relevant medical disability
- A failure to comply with one or more condition(s) attached to a doctor’s registration
- A failure to meet the terms given by the Medical Council or failure to take any action regarding context of a previous inquiry
- Infringement of the Medical Practitioners Act 2007
- A conviction in the State regarding an accusation of a wrongful offence or, if convicted outside the State, an offence that would be punishable in the Irish courts.
A glossary of terms can be viewed on the Medical Council website.
The PPC may request further documentation or information from the person who made the complaint, the doctor or from other people involved such as the doctor’s employer or a hospital.
When the PPC is satisfied that it has enough information, it will then decide what action to take:
- If the PPC believes that there is a case to take further action it will refer the complaint to the Fitness to Practise Committee; or
- If the PPC decides not to refer the complaint to the Fitness to Practise Committee, it will give an opinion to the Medical Council that:
- it should take no further action; or
- the complaint should be referred to another body or authority or to the Medical Council’s professional competence scheme; or
- The complaint could be resolved by mediation or other informal methods.
Fitness to Practise Inquiries
The Fitness to Practise Committee hears sworn oral evidence at an inquiry and in that regard the hearing is similar to a hearing before a court or a tribunal.
If the PPC refers the complaint to the Fitness to Practise Committee for an oral inquiry, the Council will advise the complainant of:
- when the inquiry will be held
- how long the hearing will take
- if they will be called as a witness to give evidence
A solicitor or barrister representing the Chief Executive Officer of the Council presents the evidence in relation to the allegations being made against the doctor to the Fitness to Practise Committee. In addition, the CEO calls witnesses to give evidence, including where necessary the person who made the complaint. In certain cases the CEO may also call an independent expert witness to give their views.
The doctor, who is the subject of the inquiry, or the doctor’s legal representative, has the right to cross-examine witnesses called by the CEO. The Fitness to Practise Committee may also ask the witnesses some questions.
After the solicitor or barrister acting for the CEO has finished presenting the case, the doctor or his/her legal representative may call witnesses or make statements to the Fitness to Practise Committee.
At the end of the inquiry, the Fitness to Practise Committee will normally leave the room to decide whether any of allegations have been proven. The Fitness to Practise Committee will usually return to the room to give its findings as to whether any of the allegations made against the doctor have been proven.
If allegations are proven at an Inquiry what can happen?
If the Fitness to Practise Committee finds that one or more allegations are proven, the Medical Council can impose one or more of the following sanctions:
- Advise, admonish or censure in writing
- Censure in writing, and fine up to €5,000
- Attach conditions to a doctor’s registration
- Transfer a doctor’s registration to another division of the register
- Suspend a doctor’s registration for a specified period
- Cancel a doctor’s registration
- Prohibit a doctor from applying for restoration to the register for a specified period
If the Medical Council decides to impose any of the above sanctions, except for advice, admonishment and censure, there is a right of appeal against the Medical Council’s decision to the High Court. If no appeal is made against the Medical Council’s decision, the Medical Council will apply to the High Court to confirm its decision. The Council does not need confirmation from the High Court if the sanction is to advise, admonish or censure.
What the Medical Council cannot do regarding your complaint
- Look into complaints about anyone who is not a registered doctor. In this regard the Medical Council cannot deal with complaints about nurses, pharmacists, dentists, opticians, social workers, hospitals, clinics or other healthcare organisations.
- Pay you compensation or help you make a claim for compensation.
- Give legal or professional advice or representation to people making complaints.
- Make a doctor apologise to you.
- Contact a doctor for you and ask him to do something such as provide the treatment that you want, write a prescription for you or give you access to your records.
- Give you a detailed explanation of what happened to you. This can only come from the doctor or health provider.
- Give or arrange medical treatment or counselling for you.
The legal framework for the Medical Council’s complaint procedures is set out in the Medical Practitioners Act 2007.
Can I complain about public or private care, or both?
The Medical Council accepts complaints against doctors working in public and private health care.
The Medical Council can consider a complaint about any doctor practising in Ireland. This includes doctors working in all branches of medicine, including hospitals and general practice.
Will the doctor be aware that I have made a complaint about him/her?
The Council is obliged to tell the doctor when a complaint is made about them. The Council will also provide the doctor with a copy of the complaint and will give the doctor an opportunity to respond to the complaint.
How do I make a complaint to the Medical Council?
Only written complaints can be dealt with by the Medical Council. In circumstances where you cannot access the complaint form you should submit your complaint in writing or by email. You will need to include the following information:
- Your full name and address.
- As much information about the doctor as you can give, such as his/her name, place of work and speciality, for example, GP, Radiologist.
- If possible, the doctor’s registration number which you can find online at www.medicalcouncil.ie.
- As much information about the incident as you can give, including names, dates, places and details of persons who may have witnessed the incident.
When should I make my complaint?
There are no time limits for making a complaint about a registered doctor.
How long does the Preliminary Proceedings Committee complaints procedure take?
Depending on the complexity of a complaint it can take up to 5 months or more from the date of receipt of the complaint for the PPC to make a decision in relation to a complaint.
Is there further explanatory information available?
Further information is available on the Medical Council website: www.MedicalCouncil.ie