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Mr Brown's busybodies

GPs were probably hoping against hope that Prime Minister Gordon Brown might have quietly forgotten about plans to overhaul medical regulation.

But Mr Brown decisively dashed those hopes last week, making clear he is no less willing than his predecessor to make a fight of it with the medical profession. Not only that, but it has become increasingly clear the white paper's plans for regulation do not contain nearly as many concessions to GP outrage as had been believed.

Keeping tabs on colleagues

The plans for a civil standard of proof, softened slightly with a sliding scale, will remain at the centre of future battles with the Government as the bill approaches parliament. But it is the proposals for local 'responsible officers', charged with surreptitiously keeping tabs on their colleagues with a view to shopping them to higher authority, that have caused most consternation this week.

Nobody likes the prospect of a spy in their midst, after all.Initially there were hopes that these eyes and ears of the GMC would operate from a distance, at strategic health authority level. But it now turns out every PCT will also have its own officer, with forms to check and poor performance to dig out.

Perhaps these new busybodies of general practice will root out the tiny minority of dangerous doctors who do exist in every trust. But will it really be worth the alienation of an entire profession?

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