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GPs condemn CMO's standard of proof plan

By Helen Crump

GPs have condemned overwhelmingly the Chief Medical Officer's proposals to weaken the burden of proof used in fitness to practise hearings.

Some 86 per cent of the first 200 GPs who responded to Pulse's survey on the implications of Sir Liam Donaldson's report on regulation of doctors criticised proposals to move to the civil standard of proof.

Under the planned change, GPs could be found guilty of professional misconduct on the 'balance of probabilities', rather than the criminal standard of 'beyond all reasonable doubt'.

GPs said the move would be unfair to those already practising and would put off the doctors of the future from joining the profession.

Dr Gerald Wilson, a GP in Belfast, said the change would be bad for patients as well as doctors.

He said: 'The proposals will discourage people from entering the profession, will increase stress for doctors and will encourage expensive, defensive medicine.'

Dr Stephen Foley, a GP in Harrogate, Yorkshire, said the change to the standard of proof would lead to frequent legal challenges.

Dr John Derounian, a GP in Ballindalloch, Banffshire, believed weakening the standard was more about controlling doctors than ensuring the wellbeing of the public. He added: 'We are now all perceived guilty until proved innocent.'

Many of Sir Liam's other proposals received a similarly lukewarm response.

Only two out of five GPs backed plans for an independent tribunal to take on the GMC's role in adjudicating on fitness to practise.

Four out of five GPs were against allowing PCTs 'unfettered' access to patient records to help them deal with concerns about a GP.

And most damningly, only 2 per cent of GPs thought Sir Liam's proposals would detect another Harold Shipman.

Dr Laurence Buckman, GPC deputy chair, said he was surprised there were even 2 per cent of GPs who held this view.

A majority (58 per cent) of GPs supported plans for local GMC 'affiliates' to deal with complaints, with one in five saying they would be interested in taking on the role.

Just over half of GPs believed affiliates would encourage more complaints but 60 per cent said they would encourage local resolution. Over three-quarters of respondents backed increased scrutiny of prescribing data and death rates.

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