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GMC breaks its silence on overhaul of regulation


Sir Liam Donaldson's plans to overhaul medical regulation would damage doctors' professionalism and harm patients if implemented wholesale, the GMC is warning.

Finlay Scott, chief executive of the GMC, broke the council's silence on the chief medical officer's proposals to say they would 'lead to the fragmentation of regulation in a way that would not be in patients' interests', writes Helen Crump.

He said a plan to downgrade the standard of proof for fitness-to-practise cases to the civil 'balance of probabilities' could damage doctors' confidence in regulation.

The GMC plans to test a 'sliding scale' approach whereby the proof required would increase according to the seriousness of the potential outcome.

This was ruled out in the Government's impact assessment of Sir Liam's proposals as 'too complex', but Mr Scott said there was 'no support for this position'.

He said: 'If you're contemplating removing a doctor's livelihood, you need to be sure of your facts. If you're considering something less serious, it may be appropriate to use a balance of probability.'

Proposals for a network of 580 GMC affiliates to improve local regulations would be hard to implement, Mr Scott said.

It was 'not immediately clear' how they would fit in with existing medical and clinical directors and boards.

Affiliates also had to be independent from PCTs, he added.

In a thinly veiled criticism of Sir Liam's report, Good Doctors, Safer Patients, Mr Scott said the GMC had been surprised at the scale of change put forward.

'There's a feeling in some quarters the report does not adequately acknowledge the huge progress that's been made in reforming regulation, an initiative taken by the GMC and fully supported by the Government.'

But he said the GMC would not be 'crying over spilt milk'.

'If we're going to command the confidence of patients and the public it will have to be obvious that local procedures are operating in their interests, not, as has been alleged, in covering up impairment.'

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