Headlines: November 6th, 2006



Doctors’ leaders believe proposals for fundamental changes to the regulation of the profession are a missed opportunity. The British Medical Association has rejected some of the measure put forward by England’s Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson and they are particularly concerned about the idea of lowering the standard of proof required to strike off a doctor.

In its official response to the report ‘Good Doctors, Safer Patients,’ the BMA said the review has failed to harness the profession’s enthusiasm for change. James Johnson, chairman of the Association welcomed several of the CMO’s recommendations, such as those for supporting doctors with performance problems. He said the BMA opposed other recommendations outright.

“One of these is the proposal to drop the criminal standard of proof in adjudication upon concerns about a doctor and instead adopt the civil standard of proof. It cannot be right, when a person’s entire means of earning a living is at stake, to rely upon a balance of probabilities rather than proof beyond reasonable doubt,” he said.

The BMA believes the main object of changing the regulatory system should be to protect patients and to support doctors with performance difficulties. In its response it says, “We will always be in favour of measures that promote excellence in medical practice and that help to reduce instances of poor standards, negligence or criminality amongst doctors.”

The Association disagrees strongly with the proposal to move undergraduate medical education from the General Medical Council to the Postgraduate Medical Education and Training Board and says the GMC should retain responsibility as this is critical to the process of producing professionals. No good case has been made for the change, the doctors’ body says.

It is also strongly opposed to the CMO’s proposal to have a doctor working as a GMC affiliate in each healthcare provider. Instead it is suggesting a regional network of doctors and lay people providing an affiliate function, but not as part of an employer organisation.