The Regulated Professions (Health and Social Care) (Amendment) Bill 2019 has passed committee stage in Dail Eireann. It is intended that this legislation will streamline the disciplinary processes of the Medical Council, the Dental Council, the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland and CORU (Regulating Health and Social Care Professionals).

The Bill is currently before Seanad Eireann, in the third stage.

The Bill, if adopted with the amendments, could affect a wide range of registered healthcare professionals such as registered doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, dentists, dieticians, dispensing opticians, optometrists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, radiographers, social workers and speech and language therapists.

The Bill proposes to introduce a requirement that such healthcare professionals make an annual declaration providing details of any disciplinary or judicial proceedings and of any sanctions imposed on them in the State or in another jurisdiction, effecting their ability to provide care.

The Bill also allows for the admissibility of documents relating to any such disciplinary or judicial proceedings in other jurisdictions for the purpose of disciplinary proceedings in this State.

At present, healthcare professionals who have received serious sanctions such as conditions, suspension and eraser could appeal. The Bill proposes that those healthcare professionals on whom the less serious sanctions of advice, admonishment or censure have been imposed, will now have the right to appeal to the High Court. In the future, if passed, all sanctions imposed will require confirmation and as such will be amenable to oversite by the High Court. This is a significant change from the present which provides that lessor sanctions do not require confirmation by the High Court. The Bill also provides that all sanctions imposed on healthcare professionals must be published. However, the Bill also allows the fitness to practice committee of the Medical Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Board to order that some or all of the information regarding a complaint should not be published and makes it an offence to do so.

It is also proposed that the CEO of the Medical Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Board will be able to investigate complaints at the screening stage, using authorised officers. The CEOs of both regulators will also be able to decide, at the screening stage, whether a complaint is frivolous orvexatious. It is expected that due to the increase in complaints, in 2017 the Medical Council received 450 complaints and the Nursing and Midwifery Board received 127, that such bodies will be able to deal with such complaints more quickly and efficiently.

If you need advice from a solicitor in Waterford, please contact MM Halley & Son Solicitors.