Editorial: GMC continues to aggravate the profession

The newly-appointed 24 members of the GMC took up their posts last month. With 12 doctors and 12 lay members it is the first time the council has not had a medical majority.

GMC president Professor Sir Graeme Catto has remained as chairman to oversee the changes, but will stand down in six months. There is the prospect that his successor will be one of the council's lay members.

GPs are right to be annoyed at this - particularly as they fund the GMC. Last year annual registration fees rose by over a third to £390, and from April they will increase again to £410.

One would expect that the organisation charged with determining who is, or is not, fit to practise and setting standards for good medical practice would be led by someone with a medical qualification, who understands the pressures doctors face.

While the GMC has done much in recent years to engage with stakeholders, in particular the DoH and patients, its relationship with the profession it regulates has not always been as cordial.

Doctors were outraged last year as the council introduced the use of the civil standard of proof in fitness-to-practise hearings. Cases are now judged on 'the balance of probabilities' as opposed to the criminal standard that requires proof 'beyond all reasonable doubt'.

Medical defence organisations raised concerns this would lead to inconsistent decisions and a rise in the numbers of doctors suspended. Little wonder the profession is unhappy with the GMC. Electing a lay chair would only lead to further disenchantment.

Over the next two years the GMC will introduce a raft of changes. This summer the first licences to practise will be issued and revalidation will not be far behind.

For these new processes to be effective the council will need the 'buy-in' and support of the medical profession. If a fellow doctor led the council, this would be easier to achieve.

Let's hope that common sense prevails, and the council elects a qualified doctor as its new chair come June.

More opinion online
Read more opinion from the GP editorial team in the editor's blog at www.healthcarerepublic.com/blogs. This is what the team had to say this week

  • "Survey finds public most satisfied with GPs Surely the DoH should be concentrating on the parts of the NHS that the public are most dissatisfied with, which according to this research are the quality of medical treatment in hospitals and dentistry."
  • "Drumming is the new homeopathy My concern if drumming were to become the new homeopathy is the infernal noise. It may well be therapeutic for the person bashing the drums, but what about the distress to people around them?"

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