Medical Protection welcomes the commitment by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to modernise the laws that underpin the work of the health and care professional regulators.
As part of the consultation outcome – Reducing bureaucracy in the health and social care system: call for evidence – DHSC committed to launching a consultation in early 2021 to modernise the legal framework of the nine health and care professional regulators. This commitment included reviewing improvements in Fitness to Practice, better collaboration between regulators, reviewing the number of regulators, and more scope for regulators to respond to emergencies.
Dr Rob Hendry, Medical Director at Medical Protection, said: “Medical Protection welcomes the commitment by DHSC to modernise the work of regulators such as the General Medical Council (GMC), with the aim of reducing the bureaucratic burden on doctors.”
“The proposed reform is a welcome step in the right direction, however the words must be followed by action. It has been nearly 10 years since the DHSC first proposed fundamental legal changes to allow GMC to take a more proportionate approach to investigating concerns about doctors.
“The vast majority of GMC investigations are closed without action, the end result being that far too many doctors go through a stressful process each year, while many complainants also endure a lengthy process with a disappointing outcome.
“Doctors and patients alike cannot be forced to endure another 10 years of delay on something so important as the regulation of healthcare professionals. A clear timeline for next steps must be set out.
“Medical Protection calls on the Government to urgently reform the Medical Act so the GMC is given discretion to not take forward investigations where allegations clearly do not require action. The current powers of the GMC were framed more than 30 years ago – when a very small number of complaints were received, and the GMC could investigate each and every one. While the GMC has made progress in streamlining their processes, more than 8,000 doctors are referred to the GMC each year, with very few coming close to the threshold of serious concern that the GMC was established to address.”
Medical Protection also calls on the Government to set a specific timeline for removing the GMC’s power to appeal decisions made by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS).
“The Government committed to removing the GMC’s power to appeal MPTS decisions two years ago in response to the Professor Sir Norman Williams review into Gross Negligence Manslaughter in healthcare. The Government must finally confirm when this much needed reform will be made.” Dr Hendry said.
“Lessons must also be learned about reducing the bureaucratic burden on doctors. For example, medical appraisals were rightly suspended at the beginning of the pandemic to allow doctors to focus on care for patients.
“The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has recommended the restart of medical appraisals using a rebalanced process that reduces bureaucracy.
“Medical Protection calls on the Government to apply these lessons learned and ensure any long-term resumption of appraisals makes the process less bureaucratic and more supportive.
“Attention has rightly been focused on the outstanding work of doctors and healthcare workers who have been on the front line of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the added pressures of the pandemic make reform of the GMC more urgent than ever.
“It is absolutely right that regulators are able to focus their efforts on the small minority of doctors that might meet their thresholds for concern. However, given the overwhelming number of GMC cases are closed without action, regulators must be able to reduce the burden of unnecessary investigations and allow the majority of doctors to focus on saving lives.”
For further information contact: Mike.Bridge@medicalprotection.org; +44 (0)7773 573303
About Medical Protection
Medical Protection is a trading name of The Medical Protection Society Limited (“MPS”). MPS is the world’s leading protection organisation for doctors, dentists and healthcare professionals. We protect and support the professional interests of more than 300,000 members around the world. Membership provides access to expert advice and support and can also provide, depending on the type of membership required, the right to request indemnity for any complaints or claims arising from professional practice.
Our in-house experts assist with the wide range of legal and ethical problems that arise from professional practice. This can include clinical negligence claims, complaints, medical and dental council inquiries, legal and ethical dilemmas, disciplinary procedures, inquests and fatal accident inquiries.
Our philosophy is to support safe practice in medicine and dentistry by helping to avert problems in the first place. We do this by promoting risk management through our workshops, E-learning, clinical risk assessments, publications, conferences, lectures and presentations.
MPS is not an insurance company. All the benefits of membership of MPS are discretionary as set out in the Memorandum and Articles of Association.