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GMC ignores doctors on standard of proof

The GMC is to force through its plans for a civil standard of proof for fitness to practise hearings virtually unaltered, despite its consultation receiving an overwhelmingly negative response.

In the same week the GMC announced a 35% increase in registration feels, it revealed it had not been persuaded by GPs of the need to significantly alter its proposals. From April 2008, hearings will now judge cases against GPs on the balance of probabilities.

Professor Sir Graeme Catto, president of the council, said he was ‘disappointed' it would not have the support of the BMA when the switch from criminal to civil standard comes in next April.

‘It would have been helpful if the BMA had seen the advantages', he said.

But although the GMC discounted the BMA's concerns – and those of Pulse readers who signed our long-running petition against the move – it did adjust its guidance on the plans in response to criticism from the Medical Protection Society.

The MPS accused the council of imposing ‘punitive' sanctions on GPs during the three month consultation which ended in October.

The controversial use of a ‘flexibly applied' civil standard of proof gave ‘the impression of uncertainty, unfairness and inconsistency', the MPS added.

The GMC's guidance clarified that the standard of proof will always be civil, but that in more serious cases threatening a GP's registration, particularly convincing evidence would be required.

The GMC admitted: ‘Almost without exception, responses from individual members of the profession argued against the introduction of the civil standard of proof in our fitness to practice procedures.'

But Mr Paul Phillip, the council's director of standards and fitness, was keen to reassure GPs that there would remain recourse to the high court if necessary.

‘I expect we will end up in the High Court – it would be in doctors' and the GMC's interest to do so,' he said.

Professor Catto added: ‘There will no doubt be case law built up quite quickly in this area.'

But Dr John Salamonksi, a GP in Fife, warned: ‘Without a shadow of a doubt I will practice defensively now,' he said, adding that junior GPs will be put off joining ‘a profession where you can't adequately protect yourself.'

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the GPC, said: ‘The GMC is trying to run faster than the Government on this'.

Professor Sir Graeme Catto: 'disappointed' not to get BMA support Professor Sir Graeme Catto: 'disappointed' not to get BMA support

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