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Should GMC have spent £43,000 on Cape Town junket?

Regulatory bodies are never particularly popular with the profession they’re regulating, but still, there does seem to be something about the GMC that repeatedly rubs up GPs the wrong way.

By Steve Nowottny

Regulatory bodies are never particularly popular with the profession they're regulating, but still, there does seem to be something about the GMC that repeatedly rubs up GPs the wrong way.

A case in point is the latest row in the medical blogosphere kicked off by Dr Rant, back to his splenetic best this week. The good doctor spotted on Doctors.net.uk a Freedom of Information response from the GMC detailing – at another doctor's request – the cost of a GMC trip to the 8th Conference of the International Association of Medical Regulatory Authorities in Cape Town last October.

The cost - for ten senior GMC figures to attend (including president Sir Graeme Catto and chief executive Finlay Scott) - was £43,062. And 96p.

Dr Rant, as befits his name, is suitably outraged.

'Presumably, they managed to pick up a few tips on red tape from the French Conseil Generale and Kangaroo court procedures from the Australian GMC, from which we will all doubtlessly benefit.'

He's particularly annoyed given his GMC fee went up by £100 in April 2008. Well, bad news Dr Rant, it's going up a further £20 in April 2009 – and I couldn't help notice that in announcing the further increase the GMC pledged to ‘reduce our travel costs through a combination of measures to improve economy and effectiveness.'

But reducing travel costs doesn't mean eliminating them entirely, and when I spoke to the GMC earlier today they were quick to defend the South Africa trip. A spokesperson said:

'The international mobility of doctors continues to grow. It is vital that that we cooperate with regulators in other countries to facilitate movement while ensuring that patients and the public are protected. It is important that we sustain strong relationships with regulators in Europe and overseas; and that we share information and developments in a meaningful way.'

'The IAMRA conference is held every two years. It provides a valuable opportunity to learn from others and to support the development of effective regulation in countries whose regulatory systems are less mature.'

So where do your sympathies lie? Outrageous waste of GPs' money – or a proportionate expenditure on a vital opportunity to share best practice?

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