Doctors at the 2019 BMA annual representative meeting (ARM) in Belfast backed a motion accusing the GMC of an institutional lack of insight and calling for its reorganisation by medical leaders.
Sessional GP Dr Kalindi Tumurugoti told the conference that the case of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba had highlighted clearly 'what is happening on the ground'. He told the conference: 'This is a defining moment and we should keep pressure on the GMC to change its culture.'
The debate came just a week after the GMC published a statement on reflective practice, giving an assurance that it would not request written reflections when investigating claims against a doctor.
Although reflective entries from Dr Bawa-Garba’s eportfolio were not used as evidence against her, notes made by her duty consultant on a meeting he had with her after the incident formed part of his witness statement, which caused some GPs to boycott reflective notes altogether.
LMC leaders also backed a vote of no confidence in the GMC last year over its handling of the Bawa-Garba case, and called for doctors to 'disengage from written reflection'.
Dr Bawa-Garba was struck off last year after the GMC challenged a medical tribunal decision that she should be suspended for 12 months - but later restored to the medical register after an appeal.
The GMC is set to be stripped of its power of appeal against medical tribunal decisions after the government accepted findings from a review last year by Professor Sir Norman Williams. The government has yet to pass legislation to enforce the decision, however.
Despite passing the motion calling for reform of the GMC, BMA delegates at the ARM rejected calls for the regulator to become 'simply a licensing body', with all disciplinary matters becoming solely the remit of the Medical Practiioners Tribunal Service (MPTS).
They also rejected calls for the GMC to be 'directly funded from taxation' after a warning that this could lead to increased political interference in regulation of doctors, and for MPTS decisions to be 'final'.
BMA chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: 'We have spent large amounts of time lobbying the GMC to change its culture over the past year. Members of GMC panels will now have human factors training - that is because of our lobbying.'
GMC chief executive Charlie Massey said: 'The GMC’s primary role is to protect patient safety and it is vital we are not perceived as a protectionist organisation for doctors. But we still take the views of the medical profession very seriously – that is why half the members of our council are medically qualified, including our chair, Dame Clare Marx.
'It is very important that we engage with the medical profession on the frontline. We do so through our relationships with organisations such as the BMA, our outreach teams - who engage with over 50,000 doctors and medical students each year - and the many hundreds of our associates who are clinicians. We are keen to develop and enhance this further.’