GMC warning as health regulation bill omitted from Queen's speech

The government missed an opportunity to modernise the regulation of healthcare professionals when it left the Regulation of Health and Social Care Bill out of Wednesday's Queen's speech, the GMC has warned.

Niall Dickson: Queen's speech omission a missed opportunity
Niall Dickson: Queen's speech omission a missed opportunity

The proposed Regulation of Health and Social Care Bill, which would overhaul how health and social care professions are regulated, did not feature in the Queen’s speech, suggesting it will not be part of the government’s plans in the year leading up to the 2015 general election.

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson described current laws governing professional regulation in healthcare as ‘cumbersome and outmoded’, and said continuing to use this system would ‘hamstring’ future reforms.

Mr Dickson said the proposed regulations 'would allow us to respond more quickly and effectively to protect patients and maintain the standards of good medical practice'.

'Once in a generation opportunity'

‘The Bill represents a once in a generation opportunity to future-proof medical regulation and better protect patients. We strongly believe these long-awaited reforms will be good for patients, doctors and the healthcare system. We therefore strongly urge the government to use the final year of this parliament to continue working on the bill.’

A DH spokeswoman said: ‘Following the Francis Inquiry, we need to make sure that our professional regulation system is fit for the future. We are committed to legislate on this important and complex issue when parliamentary time allows.

‘In the meantime, we are already using secondary legislation to make any urgent changes necessary to make sure that patients can continue to be confident that they are receiving safe care.’

Niall Dickson said the GMC will also ‘continue to work with the UK government to make urgent amendments to the Medical Act’ and it will be seeking assurances from the government to make these changes before parliament is dissolved in 2015.

He said the amendments included ‘granting us the right to appeal against fitness to practise panel decisions that we believe do not sufficiently protect patients’ and ‘a power to strike-off doctors who have been convicted of serious criminal offences without the need for a fitness to practise panel hearing’.

However, head of medical services as the Medical Protection Society Dr Nick Clements warned: 'We oppose giving regulators such as the GMC the right to appeal fitness to practise decisions. It is reasonable that decisions of fitness to practise hearings can be reviewed but this role should only be performed by an independent body.'

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