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GMC to launch major review of sanctions guidance

The GMC is to conduct a major review of the sanctions it issues, as part of a series of changes to the way it regulates doctors, chief executive Niall Dickson said yesterday.

In a keynote address to the regulator’s first-ever overarching conference in Manchester, attended by more than 400 doctors, medical students and other healthcare professionals, Mr Dickson outlined a series of developments in what he described as a ‘major and ongoing reform programme’.

He said: ‘Next year we will conduct a major consultation on our sanctions guidance – the advice we give our decision makers and panels on the appropriate sanctions to protect the public and uphold the reputation of the profession.’

Mr Dickson did not expand on his remarks about the changes, and a GMC spokesperson was unable to give any details other than to say that the regulator was doing ‘planning work’. 

Mr Dickson also confirmed the regulator would be pushing ahead with plans first consulted on in 2011 for automatic removal from the register of doctors convicted of some categories of criminal offence.

‘Our purpose is public protection,’ he said. ‘We should not hesitate to demand the removal of doctors from the register where their conduct or performance is an ongoing risk to patients. For certain categories of criminal offence, we will also be asking for the right to remove those who have been convicted without a hearing on the grounds that being a rapist is incompatible with practicing as a doctor.’

And Mr Dickson also revealed that the Government is pressing ahead with plans first reported in Pulse in March 2012 to move all professional regulators, including the GMC, under one statute.

‘We are likely to face proposed new legislation the Government is planning for the last session of this Parliament, which, if it goes ahead, will create one statute for all the professional regulators,’ he said. ‘This would represent the biggest legal shake-up since the GMC was formed in 1858. It should provide a great opportunity to modernise our legal framework and give us greater scope to amend and innovate.

‘I am sure you will all want to take part in that debate and we hope for your support in helping us secure the right framework to protect patients and ensure medical practice and education in this country continues to flourish and be among the world leaders.’