There are extremely limited grounds for a doctor to refuse to treat a patient and membership of a patient advocacy organisation is not one, a spokesman for the regulatory body for medics said yesterday.
The spokesman for the Medical Council was responding to questions following revelations in Dr Gabriel Scally’s progress report on CervicalCheck that some members of the 221+ group, representing women impacted by the controversy, were turned away by some specialists after it was found they were members.
One woman said she was made to feel like a “leper”.
A Medical Council spokesman said that “all patients, no matter their background, must be respected and listened to by their doctors”.
“The Medical Council encourages doctors and patients to work in partnership with each other and communicate with each other respectfully,” they said.
“The council supports Professor Scally’s call for systems that support good communications, compassion and open disclosure in our health services.
“Trust must be at the absolute core of the relationship between the patient and doctor.
“The work of patient advocacy groups like 221+, with whom the Medical Council has met, and many others, are vital to supporting patients, raising awareness, seeking change and improvements in our health systems.
“Patient advocacy groups play a vital role in our health system and should be supported in their work by all those involved in healthcare delivery and policy.”
Dr Scally was also critical of the wording in the Medical Council guidelines around open disclosure.
He said the guide tells doctors they “should” disclose mistakes to patients, but he insisted this should be more emphatic and say “must”.
The Medical Council spokesman said its Guide for Professional Conduct and Ethics for Registered Medical Practitioners is in the process of undergoing an extensive, scheduled review.
“This review has involved extensive consultation and consideration of submissions,” they said.
“The recommendations from Professor Scally have been brought to the ethics committee’s attention as part of this review.
“The ninth edition of the guide is due for publication in 2023.
“The guide is intended to help doctors make good judgments about the situations that arise in their practice.
“It is not a code or a set of rules that dictates how they should behave; nor does it try to list every circumstance a doctor may face.”
Dr Nóirín Russell, CervicalCheck’s clinical director, said Dr Scally’s report “details the progress CervicalCheck has made in improved governance, strengthened reporting lines, and what Dr Scally has recognised as ‘excellent system of quality assurance’ in the laboratories we use to process women’s screening tests”.
“We are continuing to make good progress in centring patients and their experiences in how we do our work,” she said.
“In designing our new Patient Requested Review process, we are working extensively in partnership with patients, including the 221 group, who have told us how we can improve on the previous audit process.
“We are listening to patients and embedding the patient voice in our processes ensuring women can have trust and confidence in our service now and in the future,” she added.