DoH plans new medical regulator

The government has announced a set of measures in its Health and Social Care Bill to transform the way GPs and other health professionals are regulated.

The bill which has now been introduced in parliament, contains plans to overhaul professional regulation.

Among the most controversial proposals is a plan to scrap the criminal standard of proof in fitness-to-practise cases, where currently guilt beyond reasonable doubt needs to be proved, in favour of a civil standard, whereby guilt can be proved on the balance of probabilities.

In addition the bill proposes the introduction of a new independent adjudicator for all health professionals, called the Office of the Health Professions Adjudicator.

Senior clinicians will also be recruited locally to act as 'responsible officers' to monitor the 'conduct and performance of local doctors' in cases where local employers have concerns.

The introduction of the civil standard of proof is a key concern of interested parties including the BMA, the Medical Defence Union and the Medical Protection Society.

BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum said: 'If a doctor's profession can be taken away from them, then there needs to be no reasonable doubt that such doctors are guilty of the charges made against them.'

Dr Meldrum also wanted to see more emphasis on supporting doctors through education and retraining if cases are proved.

The Medical Protection Society's director of communications Dr Stephanie Bown is concerned about the creation of responsible officers, a role she describes as 'frightening'.

'Just because someone is a good clinician does not mean they can command the respect of the employer, patients, doctors and the GMC alike,' she said.

The Medical Defence Union's Dr Hugh Stewart welcomed the independent adjudicator's office but questioned whether the changes to the burden of proof would lead to a fairer system.

'If the civil standard is introduced, it could lead to inconsistent and unfair decisions in many cases,' he said.

Health and Social Care Bill

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