Fitness-to-practise decisions 'defy logic', say MPs

Some fitness-to-practise decisions 'defy logic' and could put the public at risk of poor medical practice, MPs have warned.

A House of Commons health select committee report said although the GMC achieves a ‘high level’ of operational competence it remains underdeveloped in the areas of fitness-to-practise, revalidation, education and training and voluntary erasure.

Committee chairman Stephen Dorrell said that at a time when there are ‘significant concerns’ about standards of care in some parts of the health service it is important that professional regulators ‘step up to the plate’.

The committee warned that some decisions made by the fitness-to-practise panels of the GMC ‘defy logic’ and go against the core task of the GMC in maintaining the confidence of its stakeholders.

It said that it welcomed the GMC’s plans to establish an independent  Medical Practitioner Tribunal Service, as it said this will create a greater separation between the GMC's investigation and adjudication functions.

The committee, meanwhile, said that the GMC’s current plans for tougher language checks on European doctors wanting to work in the UK will only be a ‘short term measure’.

It said the issue must be addressed ‘authoritatively’ if public confidence in the medical profession is to be maintained.

It said: ‘It is clearly unsatisfactory that the competence to practise of health professionals should be assured by a work-around, and we look to the government, GMC and the relevant European bodies to work as a matter of urgency to produce a long-term solution to this problem.’

It also said the GMC has a ‘considerable amount of work’ to do before revalidation is implemented in 2012, urging the GMC to accelerate its work with the medical royal colleges to refine the standards for revalidation and to ensure the process is ‘meaningful’ to clinicians and transparent to the public.

Committee chairman Mr Dorrell said: ‘Professionalism is about standards, and both public and professional opinion look to the regulatory bodies to give an uncompromising lead in this area.’

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said the report will help drive forward the GMC’s ‘ambitious agenda’ of reform.

He said: ‘We are encouraged by the committee’s support for our plans to modernise our fitness-to-practise work and the management of hearings, including crucially allowing us the right of appeal against decisions we feel do not protect the public.
‘And, working with others, we are committed to meeting the challenge set by the committee to continue to provide leadership to the profession, particularly in relation to the standards of performance and conduct we expect, so that patients across the UK get the high-quality care they need.’

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