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Missed opportunity to reform GMC, says Medical Protection

Post date: 12/02/2021 | Time to read article: 3 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 12/02/2021

Responding to a Government White Paper published today, Medical Protection has called on the Government to move at pace to reform the General Medical Council’s Fitness to Practise processes, rather than tinkering by changing the number of regulatory bodies.

In 2017 the Government consulted on proposals to reduce the nine health professional regulators down to three or four. Today’s White Paper confirms the Government plans to remove the need for a Bill to be introduced to Parliament each time it wants to abolish a regulator. Instead, under the proposals, the Government would be able to abolish the GMC or other regulators – as well as add or remove whole professions from regulation – by using secondary legislation, which can be passed more quickly and with less scrutiny by Parliament.

Medical Protection has urged the Government to instead focus on introducing reforms that would improve how medical professionals are regulated. While the White Paper states other proposals will be taken forward separately that aim to ensure regulators’ processes are proportionate and not overly bureaucratic, details of these are not detailed in the paper.


Medical Director, Dr Rob Hendry, said: “This month marks the 10-year anniversary of Government proposals to fundamentally reform the GMC’s legal powers so they can take a more proportionate approach to investigating concerns about doctors. These reforms are long overdue and the fact that they will be absent in the proposed bill is a missed opportunity to improve regulation for patients and medical professionals alike.

“Medical Protection has long argued for reforms to the Medical Act to enable the regulator to streamline its processes to improve efficiency, reduce the number of investigations into less serious allegations, and to allow the GMC to conclude investigations in a timely manner.

“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.

“The status quo serves neither doctors nor patients, which is why Medical Protection has called 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 far smaller number of complaints were received, and the GMC could investigate each one thoroughly. More than 8,000 doctors are now referred to the GMC every year, with very few coming close to the threshold of serious concern that the GMC was established to address.

“There is now a real opportunity to improve the GMC’s Fitness to Practise function and ensure the regulator follows a fair and proportionate process in which patients, doctors and the governments of the UK can have confidence.

“If something so important as regulation of healthcare professionals cannot be reformed now, as part of widespread reform of the NHS, when can it be?”

Medical Protection also called on the Government to recommit to removing the GMC’s power to appeal decisions made by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS).

“Following the case of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba, the Government committed to removing the GMC’s power to appeal MPTS decisions more than two years ago in response to the Professor Sir Norman Williams review into Gross Negligence Manslaughter in healthcare. This change should be included in this forthcoming Bill.”


Notes to editors

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.

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