BMA rallies opposition to sliding scale

BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum has written to all BMA members condemning proposed UK regulation changes as an 'assault on our profession'.

It is part of a campaign that might see legal action taken to prevent changes to the standard of proof used in fitness-to-practise cases (GP, 28 September).

The DoH wants to move away from the current criminal standard of proof (beyond reasonable doubt) to a civil standard (balance of probabilities) in fitness-to-practise cases.

The GMC is consulting on plans to move to the civil standard suggested in a DoH White Paper published in February.

Dr Meldrum said the first step towards overturning the legislation was for GPs to contact their local MP, either in writing or using the BMA's online campaigning tool.

The BMA is also meeting with ministers, civil servants, MPs and peers. Dr Meldrum called for all GPs' support in what he said was 'one of the most important issues facing our profession'.

'The consultation seems to be not about whether, but about how,' said Dr Meldrum.

The GPC said it would be looking into the legal aspects of the proposals in the hope of challenging the legislation.

Dr Meldrum said: 'If a doctor stands to lose his or her livelihood then nothing less than the current criminal standard of proof will do and we will do all we can to maintain this. We believe a lesser standard of proof could result in unjustified adverse findings against the doctor.'

He described the changes as 'lowering the threshold to remove doctors from practice,' and said that any finding by the GMC, even for a minor offence, is 'a blot on a GP's career'.

The BMA does not believe it is necessary to form an independent adjudicator, essentially ending professionally-led regulation.

It is concerned about the use of 'responsible officers' and 'GMC affiliates', saying these roles could blur employment and regulation functions.

Dr Meldrum added: 'These officers will be seen as being on one particular side rather than trying to help and support local doctors.

'If any system is going to be effective it must be trusted by the people it is trying to regulate. I've always said the most important aspect of regulation is how confident professionals are that any problems can be dealt with in a fair and transparent manner.'

On revalidation, the BMA opposes 'any attempts to impose unrealistic and time-consuming mechanisms'.

The BMA is also against plans to replace medical GMC members elected by the profession with people directly appointed by the Public Appointments Commission.

tom.ireland@haymarket.com

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