The Medical Council published its updated Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics (8th Edition) for all Medical Practitioners on 17 May 20161. The previous edition of the Guide was published in 2009.

The new Guide sets out the principles of good professional practice, that all medical practitioners registered with the Medical Council will be expected to adhere to. There are four pillars under which every medical practitioner is expected to follow: professional identity, partnership, practice and performance.

These updated guidelines will assist all medical practitioners with a detailed guidance, and with greater clarity on many areas of practice, such as maintenance of medical records, consent, managing conflicts, concerns about colleagues, doctors in management and leadership roles, restraint, conscientious objection and nutrition and hydration. The Guide also highlights to all medical practitioners the expectations that modern Ireland as a society places on the medical profession as a whole.

The new guidelines also advise and assist medical practitioners in relation to the issues that the medical profession now faces as a result of advances in social media and technology. The main aspect of this guidance is that medical practitioners must adhere to the general rules regarding doctor patient confidentiality. It advises that medical practitioners should not contact a patient via social media. Medical practitioners should also check that information about themselves and their practice is kept up to date and is valid.

Advice on the use of telemedicine for the treatment of patients is also provided in the guide. Only medical practitioners registered with the Medical Council can provide this service in Ireland. A medical practitioner must first get the patient’s consent before engaging in a telemedicine communication, and they must also ensure that a patient’s privacy and confidentiality is protected.

Both aspects of social media and telemedicine are new additions to the guidelines, as well as clearer and updated guidelines on every other aspect of the professional practice. The new guidelines will provide a greater understanding of the issues that affect everyday medical practice in Ireland, and will be welcomed by both medical practitioners and patients alike.