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Justice for doctors: our battle over standard of proof

Join our campaign against the CMO's proposed changes to fitness to practise procedures

Pulse today launches a campaign against misguided and dangerous plans to weaken the standard of proof required to judge whether a doctor is unfit to practise.

Under Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson's proposals, fitness to practise panels would use the civil standard 'on the balance of probabilities' in cases which could end a doctor's career. This would replace the criminal standard of 'beyond reasonable doubt'.

In a Pulse survey following the release of Sir Liam's report, Good Doctors, Safer Patients, 86 per cent of GPs said they believed this was unfair and wrong.

We now want to give you the chance to register your objections to the Department of Health's consultation on the report. If you agree with the statement below, please sign our petition using any of the means shown. We will then submit it to the consultation before it closes on 10 November.

We will also lobby ministers and MPs to try to ensure this change does not happen.

Leading GPs have already backed the campaign. Dr Ham-ish Meldrum, GPC chair, said: 'Nobody is defending dangerous, incompetent doctors, but to suggest on the balance of probabilities that we remove or restrict their livelihood is not something we'd ever agree to.'

He said if the proposal became law, the GPC may take a case to the European Court of Human Rights.

Dr Ron Singer, president of the Medical Practitioners Union, said the proposal 'may infringe human rights legislation'. GPs would treat patients more defensively if it became law, he added.

Dr Michael Dixon, chair of the NHS Alliance, said 'great injustices' would be done if the standard of proof were lowered.

And Dr Brian Keighley, a GMC member and a GP in Balfron, East Stirlingshire, said a high standard had to remain for cases where a doctor's career was on the line.

He said: 'If the CMO had decided to use a sliding standard of proof where for very serious offences that could lose a doctor's livelihood a higher standard of proof is used, I would be satisfied. But he specifically, for no good reason, dismissed that option.'

Register your opposition by signing the petition now

We, the undersigned, oppose the proposal in Good Doctors, Safer Patients to weaken the standard of proof required to declare a doctor unfit to practise.

We believe this change from the criminal standard, 'beyond reasonable doubt', to the civil standard, 'on the balance of probabilities', will lead to miscarriages of justice and see some doctors unfairly deprived of their livelihoods.

We also believe it will lead to an increase in the practice of defensive medicine, which will be bad for patients and costly for the NHS.

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