Non-doctor could be GMC chairman

Departure of Catto could leave a lay person at helm of GMC for first time.

The GMC is poised to alienate the profession with the real possibility of electing a layman as its new leader.

The new 24-member council, only half of whom are doctors, will vote among themselves for a successor to GMC chairman Professor Sir Graeme Catto, who steps down in June.

The 150-year-old medical regulatory body has never been led by anyone other than a qualified doctor.

'The GMC has become increasingly good at relating to government, health authorities and the public,' said Dr Brian Keighley, former GMC member and chairman of the BMA's working party on the GMC.

'But it recognises itself that it has not been as good at relating with its own constituents - doctors. I don't think it's the time to choose a lay leader when the GMC is eager to enhance its engagement with the profession at a time of great change.'

Choosing a layman would further distance at least eight out of 10 doctors from the GMC, said Bolton GP Dr Krishna Korlipara, a council member for 24 years.

'The profession already feels alienated. This gives out a message that the new GMC doesn't care as long as it does what the government wants.'

GPC Wales chairman Dr David Bailey said: 'I think it's wrong to have a professional regulator led by someone who is not a member of that profession.' But he added that doctors should continue to pay for the GMC.

'I think the disadvantages of having a regulator led by a non-medic do not outweigh the loss of self-regulation if the body is not funded by the profession.'

The Nursing and Midwifery Council, the nursing regulator, is already led by a non-nurse. Its chairman Professor Tony Hazell is a former probation officer and academic.

Professor Peter Rubin, former chairman of the Postgraduate Medical Education and Training Board (PMETB) and Dr John Jenkins, senior lecturer in child health at Queen's University Belfast are the strongest medical contenders for the leadership.

Sir Rodney Brooke, a lay member, was chairman of the social workers' GMC, the General Social Care Council, from 2002 to 2008.

The GMC is taking pre-emptive steps to bolster its relations with doctors. It is inviting doctors to compete for one of 25 seats in a new 'reference community' that will replace its patient advisory group.

At the initiative's launch last week, Sir Graeme said the GMC was determined to achieve 'better engagement with the profession and particularly the public'.

GMC contenders

Medical candidates in the running for the top job:

  • Professor Peter Rubin, former chairman, PMETB
  • Dr John Jenkins, senior lecturer in child health, Queen's University, Belfast

prisca.middlemiss@haymarket.com

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