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Seanad Introduces the Medical Practitioners (Amendment) Bill 2013

  • Ireland

    23-12-2013

    In contrast to solicitors, financial service providers and other professionals, there is currently no statutory obligation on medical practitioners to hold professional indemnity cover. The Medical Council’s ‘‘Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics for Registered Medical Practitioners’’ merely states that medical practitioners ‘‘must ensure’’ that they have ‘‘adequate professional indemnity cover for all healthcare services’’ provided. Given the inherent risk of negligence that exists in relation to the work of medical practitioners, it is difficult to argue that the current guidelines are fundamentally adequate when viewed in the context of providing patients with appropriate protection measures.

    It was on that basis that the Medical Practitioners (Amendment) Bill 2013 (the “Bill”) was introduced to the Seanad in July of this year. The purpose of the Bill is to amend the Medical Practitioners Act 2007 to make it mandatory for all medical practitioners to have adequate medical indemnity insurance cover, with responsibility for administering and enforcing such terms resting with the Medical Council.

    The Bill is divided into five Parts and contains nine sections, with section 1 providing for the commencement of the Bill six months after the Bill has been passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas. There is currently no timeline established in terms of when the Bill will be enacted, but it is anticipated that it will progress to the second stage in early 2014 and to committee stage soon thereafter.

    The proposed Bill is of course most welcome by practitioners, patients and regulators alike. It will be interesting to monitor whether or not there will be a positive duty to “retain” appropriate levels of cover and what, if any, professional indemnity processes will be amended in terms of situations as may arise whereby professional indemnity providers seek to withdraw cover.

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