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Justice for GPs hangs in balance

As consultation on medical regulation enters its final week, the BMA savages CMO's plans

Lowering the level of proof needed to deprive doctors of their livelihood would 'massively increase' the potential for miscarriages of justice, the BMA is warning.

In an uncompromising submission to the consultation on the Chief Medical Officer's proposals to overhaul medical regulation, the association said ditching the beyond reasonable doubt standard would 'open the way for vexatious and malicious complaints against doctors to gain currency'.

Sir Liam Donaldson's plans would 'set back the cause of clinical governance' and lead to more defensive medicine.

'It will not have the effect of raising professional standards. It will create a more defensive, less open organisational environment with patients subjected to excessive investigation and overcautious clinical behaviour.'

The blistering attack came as Sir Liam showed signs of

back-tracking on some of his key proposals amid a barrage

of criticism from the medical profession.

Sir Liam told a meeting organised by the King's Fund that he was now 'open-minded' about whether the GMC should regulate trainee doctors.

Responses to the consultation had already thrown up 'powerful arguments' against the Postgraduate Medical Education and Training Board taking the role, he said.

Sir Liam also conceded that too many doctors could be lost to the NHS if the bar for revalidation was set too high.

The BMA said the proposal to weaken the standard of proof was 'more symbolic' than any other of Sir Liam's 44 recommendations and was more about compensating for weaknesses in clinical governance than improving regulation.

'Health managers would abdicate responsibility for managing performance and pass it over to an affiliate function where the GMC became an agent of the employer,' it said.

Consultation on Good Doctors, Safer Patients, closes on November 10. Ministers are understood to then have only two weeks to draw up a White Paper with their final conclusions.

Almost 900 GPs have now signed Pulse's petition against a weakening of the standard of proof (see left).

• Analysis, page 19

Last chance to back our petition

We, the undersigned, oppose the proposal 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.

To register your support

• Visit and follow the link to Justice for GPs.

• E-mail pulsecampaign@, leaving your name and postcode in the

subject field.

• Call 020 7921 8095 with

your name, postcode and message.

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