GMC hearings 'too punitive'

The punitive nature of fitness- to-practise hearings could be making it more likely bad doctors are going unchecked, the chair of the health select committee has warned.

Speaking at a fringe event at the Labour Party conference, MP Kevin Barron said, 'The disciplinary procedures can frighten people off reporting what they need to report. That's something we need to look at.'

He said that colleagues were rarely shocked when doctors ended up before the GMC. 'No one is surprised that this doctor has made a mistake, because he's been on the edge of making a mistake for years.'

Yet nobody reports it 'because of the system' under which doctors can be excluded from practice, damaging their skills and confidence even once they are cleared.

Dr Stephanie Bown, policy and communications director at the Medical Protection Society, said the problem was that GMC hearings 'tend to be punitive'.

'The starting point isn't looking for ways to make things better, it's a warning or dismissal,' she said.

jonn.elledge@haymarket.com

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