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Medical Council Trains Assessors for New Performance Procedures

In September, the Medical Council trained assessors for new performance procedures, which will become operational at the end of 2011.

This development brings forward proposals set out in “Performance in Practice: Maintenance of Professional Standards”, a statement which the Medical Council developed in consensus with a range of relevant stakeholders setting out its vision for a system for regulating the maintenance of professional competence. It takes account of a Performance Evaluation pilot study (“PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENT Developing Standards 2008”), which was conducted in the primary care setting, to allow Council to better understand the principles and practise of performance assessment in an Irish context and drew on international experience and expertise regarding best practise in this complex and challenging area.

Following commencement of Part 11 of the Medical Practitioners Act 2007 – Maintenance of Professional Competence, the Medical Council is now finalising arrangements for the establishment of procedures to manage concerns regarding doctors’ performance. The procedures will be operated by the Medical Council. Referral will be activated by the Medical Council, the Preliminary Proceedings Committee or the Fitness to Practise Committee where the consideration of a complaint about a doctor leads to a need to seek assurance that the doctor is maintaining professional competence. The procedures will comprise an assessment of performance and a requirement for the doctor to engage in action to address any identified gaps or weakness in knowledge or skill.

The Medical Council is working with the UK’s National Clinical Assessment Service (NCAS), which is internationally recognised for its cutting edge work on assessing doctors whose performance has given cause for concern so as to facilitate a return to safe and valued practise.

As part of this work, in September 2011, the Medical Council, with support from NCAS, delivered training to medical and non-medical assessors which it identified through an application process during the summer. The workshop aimed to simulate the Medical Council’s workplace-based assessment using the Medical Council’s workplace-based assessment methods and tools and provided delegates with an opportunity to encounter and manage situations which commonly arise during assessments. Lectures were delivered to ensure delegates understood the principles behind the Medical Council’s scheme for performance assessment and the theory of workplace based assessment of performance. However, a great emphasis was placed throughout training on ensuring delegates were provided with hands-on practice in using methods, tools and documentation that will be integral to procedures when they become operational, including:

  • Clinical Record Review
  • Direct Observation of Practise
  • Case-based Assessment

Besides these technical skills, training also supported delegates to develop skills in searching for evidence, in making evidence-based and unbiased judgement and in working as a team.

As a result of the training, the Medical Council will be confident that assessors appointed to teams to conduct performance assessments as an element of its performance procedures will have the knowledge and skills necessary to be effective in this role.

The Medical Council is currently finalising the procedures and plans to communicate with the profession, the public and other relevant stakeholders about its plans before the procedures become operational at the end of the year.