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GMC faces new crisis

Leaked letter suggests Shipman Inquiry is preparing a blistering attack on the GMC and its revalidation plans

The Shipman Inquiry's final report could end self-regulation for doctors.

A leaked letter obtained by Pulse which indicates the inquiry's potential conclusions delivers a damning indictment of the GMC's policies and processes.

In 17 separate points, the confidential letter to the GMC's solicitors states the council may be censured not only for its performance during the period of Shipman's crimes but also for subsequent reforms such as revalidation and its current policies.

The document says the GMC may be criticised for prejudice towards doctors, for changing revalidation out of 'expediency' and for failing to lay down clear fitness to practise policies.

If repeated by the inquiry's final report due in the summer, the criticisms would wreck revalidation before its introduction in 2005.

They would also deliver a hammer blow to the GMC, which came under sustained attack when Shipman's crimes were revealed but has subsequently undertaken a wholesale programme of reform.

Prime Minister Tony Blair told MPs in January the Government would implement the inquiry's findings in full and as soon as possible.

The letter from the inquiry's solicitor Henry Palin was sent to the council in late December after more than a dozen GMC witnesses gave evidence to its fourth session.

Its purpose is to give the council a chance to respond before the inquiry chair, Dame Janet Smith, begins drafting her final report.

The timing suggests the inquiry was not swayed by the GMC's original defence.

The letter stated: 'The GMC may be open to criticism in respect of the way in which it proposes to carry out revalidation which may be said to be inadequate to meet the claims presently being made as to its beneficial effects.

'Further it may be said that the GMC has failed adequately or convincingly to explain its changes of stance in respect of its proposals for the implementation of its policy on revalidation.'

The GMC has argued in its submissions to the inquiry that revalidation has the support of the Government and Parliament.

The letter also stated the GMC may be criticised for its 'failure to lay down clear policies so as to properly reflect its claimed objective of protecting patients'.

The inquiry also said GMC decision makers may 'lack objectivity' and their 'prejudices favoured the doctor rather than the complainant'.

Although the inquiry says

it will take into account reforms made since Shipman, it argues 'continuing shortcomings' exist.

GMC & Shipman Inquiry

Feb 1999 GMC votes in favour of revalidation.

Feb 2000 Shipman Inquiry launched. Health Secretary warns self-regulation in danger. GMC announces reform plans.

June 2000 BMA members vote no confidence in GMC.

June 2001 Shipman Inquiry begins taking evidence.

May 2002 Government accepts GMC reform proposals including revalidation and slimmed-down council.

July 2003 Shipman Inquiry fourth stage. Includes GMC role.

Summer 2004 Shipman Inquiry' final report due.

The inquiry may well wish to express reservations about the GMC's proposals for the future

The way in which it proposes to carry out revalidation may be said to be inadequate

By Ian Cameron

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