Many of my colleagues recently received a somewhat sharp email from the ICGP informing them they had not met their professional competence (PC) requirements for the past year. I understand this correspondence caused some degree of upset for those female GPs who have been on maternity leave, and thus found it hard to attend the necessary conferences and meetings.
To my mind, it is completely unreasonable to insist that doctors who are absent from work for lengthy periods for the purpose of raising babies should be required to meet exactly the same level of CME commitment as their childless counterparts. Yet, incredibly, that seems to be the current policy.
It is hard not to feel angry about this. In my opinion, confronting pregnant women in this fashion does nothing to enhance patient safety in Ireland. It does, however, cause considerable distress for many colleagues who already have a lot of stress to deal with.
It is a pity that the Medical Council, and those academic members who are working with them on these matters, appear to have made little effort to date to address this issue. Indeed, was it too much to ask that, in an increasingly feminised profession, some compassion and decency might have been afforded to expectant mothers before the entire CME project was made mandatory for us all? Would it not have been preferable to have perhaps created a flexible policy to cover these entirely predictable life events, rather than demand absolute compliance under all circumstances?
I would humbly suggest that maybe every once in a while those in charge should try to be a bit more accommodating to hard-working female doctors and mothers. They deserve better. For the record, I comply fully with my CPD requirements as I have no desire to be admonished by those in authority. Nonetheless, I remain firmly of a view that the current approach to ongoing education is fundamentally flawed. I suspect others are coming around to my way of thinking.
Cutting pharma links
Meanwhile, in an entirely unrelated development, the Medical Council has announced new guidelines on the relationship between medical professionals and the pharmaceutical industry.
The background to this is most interesting. Apparently, doctors have been subjected to an insidious form of brainwashing by drug reps for decades. This particular outrage has been achieved through gifts and lavish meals provided by sinister global corporations intent on influencing our prescribing habits.
Of course, there were those innocent creatures like me who, in my hospital days, enjoyed an odd dinner party courtesy of a drug company. I regarded such events as pleasant social gatherings rather than indoctrination sessions into a prescribing cult. Indeed, I might well have starved to death in my intern year back in 2000, were it not for the efforts of some generous pharmaceutical representatives.
I now recognise the error of my ways. Clearly, the wonderfully-cooked steaks that I occasionally devoured were designed to make me write prescriptions for dodgy products of no benefit to my patients. It is strange that I never actually remember doing so, but obviously this demonstrates just how good these guys were at brainwashing.
It is vital that the Medical Council protects feeble minds like mine from ever again succumbing to such steak-fuelled evenings. I salute their radical new approach, which ensures that hospital colleagues across the land will never again enjoy sponsored social events.
Furthermore, we are now banned from receiving ‘gifts’ from drug reps, which means that those pens and nice little notepads that I got last week are already en route to the bin, lest I succumb to an as-yet-unnoticed prescribing temptation.
I for one believe that we must show no mercy from now on. Any colleague who receives as much as a cheap biro from the evil pharmaceutical industry must be subjected to a full Fitness to Practise inquiry, live on RTÉ. In fact, I would go further. A more inventive range of punishments should be created for more serious offenders — I recommend public flogging as a minimum starting point for those doctors who get a free dinner, building up to lengthy imprisonment for serial offenders.
Such an approach will ensure that doctors are never again unduly influenced by this nefarious industry, whose inventions save millions of lives every year.
Sack the Trap
I have just watched Ireland achieve a flattering 4-1 victory over the mighty Faroe Islands. To judge from the enthusiastic reaction in some quarters, you would swear we had just thrashed Brazil. Unfortunately, those of us in the real world are still getting over the trauma of seeing our national team get stuffed 6-1 by Germany. It was a performance that would have made Stephen Staunton blush. Beating up a few fishermen in the North Atlantic does not alter the fact that there is something seriously wrong here.
As I write, Giovanni Trapattoni remains in his job. Only Liam Brady seems happy about this. The FAI was first silent but ‘sources’ were busy spinning against the manager in the media, before the Association officially backed him after what was described as a ‘knife-edge’ meeting last week. My view is simple. Trap needs a P45 as soon as it can be arranged.
It is time now to look to the future. The new boss must be an English-speaking hard man who will put the fear of God into some of the pampered young men that are now wearing the green jersey. Iron discipline is what these lads need.
There is only one person capable of fulfilling that role. Step forward Roy Keane — your hour has come.