Important notice on complaints amounting to poor professional performance

In a judgment delivered in February 2015, the Supreme Court has found that in order for there to be a finding of poor professional performance in relation to any error on the part of a doctor a threshold of seriousness applies. In effect, for any complaint made to the Medical Council to be referred to Fitness to Practise Inquiry on such grounds, the matter must be of a serious nature.

Following the Supreme Court judgment, the Medical Council will be discussing the implications of this ruling with the Department of Health. Poor professional performance is one of seven grounds of complaint considered by the Medical Council and we will continue to thoroughly investigate each and every complaint received. However, this judgment means that before a complaint could be referred for a fitness to practise inquiry on grounds of poor professional performance, the incident would have to be classed as serious. It is important for the public and doctors to be aware that complaints can be resolved through other means than fitness to practise inquiries, including an assessment of the doctor’s performance, mediation or referring the complainant to another organisation (such as the doctor’s employer or a hospital).