Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn


What are Professional Competence Schemes?

Professional Competence Schemes (PCSs) are the formal structures provided for under Part 11 of the MPA 2007 to ensure that all doctors registered and working in Ireland maintain their education, knowledge and skills (competence) at an acceptable level.

A PCS is recognised by the Medical Council for the purpose of maintaining professional competence and are operated by postgraduate medical training bodies under arrangement with the IMC.

Who do PCSs apply to?

PCSs apply to all registered medical practitioners whose names are entered in the general, supervised and specialist divisions of the IMC register.

Trainees, including interns, if registered on the trainee specialist division will not be required to be enrolled on a PCS.

What is involved in PCSs?

PCSs are designed to promote self directed and practice-based learning activities rather than supervised training. As well as promoting personal professional development the schemes promote activities that maintain and develop the competencies e.g. professionalism, knowledge skills and attitudes of the individual practitioner, which are essential for meeting the changing needs of patients and the healthcare delivery system.

PCSs encourage participants to plan, record and reflect on professional development needs, as part of their pursuit for lifelong learning.

The schemes presently consists of two elements:


  • Continuing professional development (CPD)
  • Clinical/practice audit


When did it become mandatory to participate in a PCS?

Minister for Health & Children, Mary Harney TD, signed an order bringing Part 11 of the Medical Practitioners Act, 2007 – Maintenance of Professional Competence – into effect from Saturday, 1 May 2010.

All registered medical practitioners have a legal duty to demonstrate that they are maintaining their professional competence. In practice this means that practitioners on the specialist general and supervised divisions of the register must enrol with an accredited PCS and begin a process of recording their engagement in professional competence activities such as CPD and clinical/practice audit.

Practitioners were required to enrol onto a scheme from 1 May 2011.

What are the minimum requirements for professional competence?

It is expected that doctors will garner a minimum of 50 CPD credits annually in the following categories:

  • External – a minimum of 20 CPD credits
  • Internal – a minimum of 20 CPD credits
  • Personal learning – a minimum of 5 CPD credits
  • Research, postgraduate examining and teaching – 2 CPD credits desirable

Complete on clinical/practice audit per annum

Professional competence requires year-on-year compliance. However if you are on extended sick leave or maternity leave the IMCs advice is that you engage where possible during these absences and make up any shortfalls on return to practice.

How protected/confidential will the data collected through professional competence process be?

The data collected through PCSs will be used for the purpose of carrying out any reasonable activity for the efficient administration, monitoring and audit of the PCS.

The operators of the schemes are required to provide annual reports to the IMC on a number of KPIs relating to the operation of the scheme. All data included in these reports is de-identified and aggregated.

Confidentiality will be preserved and the data will only be disclosed to a third party to meet statutory obligations. The Freedom of Information Acts 1997 and 2003 will not apply to a record relating to any PCS.