The call was backed by a prominent member of the GPC, who said there was 'a very good argument' that doctors should no longer fund the GMC if it continues to move in the direction it has.
GPC negotiator Dr Dean Marshall told GP that the ‘emphasis’ of the GMC’s role had noticeably changed from merely regulating doctors towards 'protecting the public' in recent years, a sentiment backed by the Medical Protection Society (MPS), a leading medico-legal organisation.
Dr Marshall said: ‘The GMC has really changed its role over the last 10 years or so. They clearly don’t see their role as being related to doctors; they see their role as protecting the public. I think that’s why a lot of doctors object to them funding the GMC – it has morphed into a very different organisation.
‘If you look at speeches from Niall Dickson, its chief executive, it’s fairly clear that he sees the role of the GMC completely differently. And if the GMC then becomes an organisation to protect the public, then that should be funded by the government and not by doctors.’
'Funding our own hangman'
He said this could be clearly observed in the ‘completely and utterly unfair’ change in legislation that allows the regulator to appeal against doctor fitness-to-practise rulings made by the independent Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS).
‘If the process has gone through and a decision has been made, then that should be the end of it,’ he said. ‘The GMC has completely changed, where it’s now going to hound doctors it believes shouldn’t be practising.’
Respondents to the GP survey of over 400 GPs said it felt like the increasingly battered profession was ‘paying to get punished’ and ‘funding [its] own hangman’.
One respondent called the situation unfair. ‘No other organisation which "protects the public" is funded by its members,’ they said. ‘It should be funded by the public purse like the police regulatory body, etc.’
But one in five GPs (18%) said doctors should remain responsible for funding the GMC, with many raising concerns that if doctors stopped this they would relinquish any say they had in how the regulator is run.
One respondent said: ‘If we do not fund it then we have no say at all in its activities, which may make it more likely to continue to move towards being a public watchdog than an organisation to regulate the profession.’
One in seven (14%) respondents said they were not sure whether doctors should stop paying the fees, with some fearing doctors were caught in a Catch 22-type situation.
A respondent said: ‘I do feel they protect the public more than me, and resent paying them my fee, but equally I think they have an important role. I fear if the public entirely funded them things would be worse for us.’
GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said: ‘The idea that we should have any other role than protecting the public and make sure that all the doctors on our register are safe to practise is nonsense.
‘What has changed is our relationship with the medical profession and a recognition that lay and patient perspectives are important. We have modernised how we engage with doctors and we are reaching out more than ever before to support them in their practice and throughout their careers. What is more we know that there is strong support from doctors for the way we regulate the profession. According to an independent survey of 3,000 doctors and medical students, published in 2015, three quarters (75%) of doctors said they were confident in the way the GMC regulates doctors.
‘Professional regulation has to be independent of the state if it is to be fair and effective. We do have to challenge services that are not supporting doctors in training and we do have to take action if we believe revalidation is not being done properly – this requires an organisation that is not beholden to the state but is accountable to parliament. Changing how we are funded could put this essential independence at risk.
‘Of course, we have to provide value for money, but our annual fee is the same as it was in 2010, in spite of taking on major new responsibilities such as the oversight of postgraduate education. Having cut the fee in 2011 we did have to increase it in December 2014 but this was the first rise in five years, and we are determined to do all that we can to keep costs to doctors as low as possible.’