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Medical Council hosts Conference on Professional Competence

8th April 2011

From May, all doctors legally obliged to engage in lifelong learning and continuous improvement

The Medical Council today (8th April, 2011) hosted a conference on new legal requirements for doctors to maintain their professional competence.  The conference, entitled ‘Maintaining Competence, Maintaining Trust’ was opened by Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly. 

From May, it will be a legal requirement for all doctors to commit to a formal process of lifelong learning and continuous improvement by enrolling in professional competence schemes (which will be operated by postgraduate training bodies) and fulfilling requirements set by the Medical Council.

Opening the conference, Dr James Reilly, Minister for Health said:  “The introduction of a professional competence system in Ireland will enhance patient safety, ensuring that doctors’ knowledge and skills are kept up-to-date throughout their professional lives.  It brings medical regulation in Ireland in line with best practice in other jurisdictions and is designed to support doctors in the delivery of safe, effective and patient-focused care.”

A range of Irish and international speakers participated at the event, held in the Croke Park conference centre.  Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health, spoke of ‘Building a Culture of Patient Safety in Ireland,’ while Dr Alison Reid spoke of the experience of the New South Wales Medical Board in rolling out similar schemes in Australia.

Speaking at the event, Professor Kieran C Murphy, President of the Medical Council, said: “The establishment of professional competence schemes marks a significant strengthening of the role of the Medical Council.  Our function as regulator has traditionally been associated with investigation and disciplinary action, but from May we will also oversee how doctors maintain their competence through lifelong learning and continuous improvement throughout their career.”

The statutory obligations for doctors will require that doctors maintain, update and develop their knowledge, skills and attitudes to meet the needs of patients, the health service, and their own professional development.  This will be achieved through engaging in lifelong learning and local, practice-based quality assurance activities such as clinical audit.  Each year, doctors will receive an official statement confirming their participation in activities to maintain their competence.  The public is encouraged to play an active role in driving the new system by reviewing this statement to verify with their doctors that they are fulfilling their legal obligations.  From 2012, the Medical Council will operate monitoring processes to quality assure the new professional competence system. 

Schemes will be operated by a range of postgraduate training bodies who provided information booths for doctors at the conference.

Professor Murphy added: “The Medical Council’s primary objective is to protect the public, and this new system is designed to maintain and build trust between patients and doctors.  While no system can eradicate human error, the introduction of a formal process of lifelong improvement is an important step in bettering the quality of care in Ireland.”

ENDS.

For further information contact:
Lorna Farren - Medical Council, Communications Manager – Professional Competence
Telephone: +353 1 4983173

Mobile: +353 87 913 0288
Email: lfarren@mcirl.ie

Note to editors:

About the Medical Council
The Medical Council protects the public by promoting and better ensuring high standards of professional conduct, and professional education, training and competence among registered medical practitioners. There are over 18,000 doctors registered with the Medical Council.

The Professional Competence System

More information on professional competence schemes can be accessed on the Medical Council’s website at: http:/www.medicalcouncil.ie/Professional-Development/Professional-Competence/