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GPs set for civil standard showdown

The Government is facing a major showdown with GPs over the future of professional regulation, after it decided to press ahead with plans to lower the standard of proof in fitness-to-practise cases.

Under the proposals, the civil rather than criminal standard of proof will be used in all cases, although there will be scope to try doctors at different levels on a 'sliding scale' of proof according to the severity of the charge.

BMA chair Dr Hamish Meldrum – who at this year's annual representatives' meeting predicted regulation would be the BMA's 'next big battle' – is seeking urgent talks with new health secretary Alan Johnson.

'The BMA's members have made it very clear they are against using the balance of probabilities – the civil standard of proof – to take away a doctor's livelihood,' he said. 'Nothing less than the criminal standard of proof – beyond reasonable doubt – is acceptable.'

Dr Krishna Korlipara, a GP from Bolton, Lancashire, who sits on the GMC, said: 'The system will lead to miscarriages of justice and will deprive some doctors of their livelihood.'

But he added: 'The battle can be won if doctors collectively and individually lobby MPs and the House of Lords.'

Last year more than 1,000 doctors signed Pulse's Justice for GPs petition against weakening the standard of proof, in evidence then cited by the Department of Health. The Medical Protection Society has announced it now plans to lobby MPs and peers on the issue.

Government to press ahead with plans to lower standard of proof in fitness to practise cases Government to press ahead with plans to lower standard of proof in fitness to practise cases

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