Professional Competence - Friend Or Foe

Author:Mr Joe Beashel
Profession:Matheson Ormsby Prentice

May 2011 saw the introduction of a statutory requirement for medical practitioners to commit to a formal process of professional development, including the completion of 50 hours of continuing professional development per year. More recently, in December 2011, the Medical Council has gone one step further in its role of promoting high standards in professional conduct and education. This includes publishing new rules permitting the performance assessment of a practitioner, where concerns arise that he or she is not maintaining the required level of professional competence. In that the Medical Council's goal is to improve medical practice and encourage patient safety, an ambition shared by every healthcare practitioner, it is not unsurprising that they have been met with a generally positive response. In a survey of over 350 practitioners, carried out in September last year, 79.5% welcomed the introduction of performance assessment as an additional procedure for handling concerns about performance. However, in considering the impact of the new requirements, a number of observations can be made. On one hand, it is arguable that these new procedures may lessen the number of Fitness to Practise Committee Inquiries, as the Preliminary Proceedings Committee will now have an alternative means of managing a complaint. On the other hand, however, where a performance assessment reveals a serious concern, the Medical Council may, itself, initiate a complaint against a practitioner. As such, the new requirements could, in fact, result in an increased number of inquiries. Given that the new requirements are so recently introduced, it is premature to speculate overly on their impact. However, for practitioners looking to understand how the process works, the following section outlines the various steps involved. Performance Assessment – Getting There A medical practitioner may be referred for performance assessment:

  1. Following consideration of a complaint by the Preliminary Proceedings Committee; 2. Following a Fitness to Practise Committee Inquiry, a practitioner may undertake to be referred for performance assessment; or 3. Following a Fitness to Practise Committee Inquiry, the Medical Council may direct referral for performance assessment. The Process If you or your practice has been referred for performance assessment, the Professional Competence Committee (the 'Committee') or an assessment team appointed by the Medical Council (the...

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