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Written Answers. - Registration of Medical Practitioners.

Tuesday, 3 December 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 558 No. 4

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 326. Mr. Dennehy Information on John Dennehy Zoom on John Dennehy  asked the Minister for Health and Children Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin  if he has satisfied himself that satisfactory regulation is in place to ensure that medical practitioners who have been struck off or barred from practice in other EU countries cannot establish practice here. [24770/02]

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Under the Medical Practitioners Act, 1978, the Medical Council is the body statutorily charged with the registration of medical practitioners. In order to ensure patient care and safety it is necessary for the council to be absolutely certain of the suitability of a medical practitioner to be registered. In order to do this the Medical Council must satisfy itself as to the qualifications and good standing of any applicant for registration, [1107] and insists on the provision of appropriate evidence that these requirements are met in the interests of patient safety.

Persons wishing to practise as a registered medical practitioner in this country must apply to the Medical Council supplying relevant documentation upon which they are relying in making their applications for registration in the general register. I further understand from the council that one of the documents required is a recently dated certificate of good standing issued by the registration authority with which the doctor is currently registered. The certificate should certify that the doctor is registered and that no disciplinary action has been taken against him/her. Moreover, the certificate is verified by the council directly with the issuing registration authority in the country of origin except where that authority has sent the certificate directly to the council.

The Medical Council has also advised me that there are registered medical practitioners whose names are entered in the General Register of Medical Practitioners maintained by the council but whose registered addresses are outside the country. Such doctors remain entitled to engage in the practice of medicine in this country, subject to their names remaining in the general register. Where information is received from registration authorities in the countries in which these doctors are practising, stating that disciplinary proceedings have resulted in erasure, or some restriction on their ability to practise freely has been imposed, this information is referred to the Fitness to Practise Committee for consideration under Part V of the Medical Practitioners Act, 1978. The statutory provisions include that the council may apply to the High Court for an order suspending a doctor's registration where the public interest is considered to be at risk.

The Lynott report, which I commissioned and published earlier this year, makes a number of recommendations to improve procedures for verifying the registration status of doctors who have previously been registered in another country. It recommends that appropriate checks be made by employers with regulatory bodies in countries in which a doctor was previously registered and this measure is now being introduced and will further ensure patient safety.

Preparation of heads of Bill for a new Medical Practitioners Act is well advanced and the current statutory provisions in relation to the registration of medical practitioners are being carefully examined in this context. The Lynott report will be taken into consideration as part of this process.

In addition, ensuring patient safety and consumer protection are key elements which must be addressed during the current negotiations on the proposed new European Council directive on the recognition of professional qualifications.

All of these measures maximise the protection of the consumer through agreed verification and regulatory procedures governing medical practitioners, and I am satisfied that appropriate steps [1108] are being taken to safeguard the consumer in this regard.

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