The Medical Council recently published a review of complaints received between 2008 and 2012. Over 2,000 complaints were received during this time. The review's key findings are as follows:

  • Between 2008 and 2012 there was a 46% increase in the number of complaints received.
  • A doctor's chance of being complained about rose to approximately one in 37.
  • Doctors that were subject to one complaint were more likely to face further complaints.
  • Eighty six per cent of complaints were made by members of the public, while only 3% came from the Health Service Executive or other healthcare organisations.
  • Male doctors are twice as likely as female doctors to have a complaint made against them.
  • Approximately one in 10 complaints resulted in a fitness to practise inquiry, while 68% of such inquiries resulted in findings against the doctor and the imposition of penalties.
  • Penalties affecting a doctor's registration were more common for internationally-qualified doctors than for doctors who qualified in Ireland.

While questions of medical knowledge and skill featuring prominently in the complaints, the council reported that complaints were often motivated by doctors' poor performance, attitude and behaviour – including:

  • poor patient communication;
  • lack of compassion and empathy;
  • failure to treat patients with dignity and respect; and
  • an inability to relate effectively with patients and families.

The practice areas facing the most complaints included:

  • psychiatry;
  • cosmetic surgery;
  • obstetrics and gynaecology; and
  • locum and out-of-hours work.

The council has also published a new draft Guide to Professional Conduct and Ethics for Registered Medical Practitioners, which will be finalised following feedback from doctors, the public and other bodies.

For further information please contact Niall Rooney at Matheson by telephone (+353 1 232 2000) or email ( The Matheson website can be accessed at

This article was first published by the International Law Office, a premium online legal update service for major companies and law firms worldwide. Register for a free subscription.