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BMA’s PA regulation legal action ‘not even arguable’, claims GMC

BMA’s PA regulation legal action ‘not even arguable’, claims GMC

The GMC has rejected the BMA’s plans for legal action on physician associate (PA) regulation, claiming the grounds for a judicial review are ‘not even arguable’.

Last week, the BMA announced it was launching legal action against the GMC over the way in which it plans to regulate PAs, and in particular the use of the term ‘medical professionals’ to refer to both doctors and associate professionals.

But yesterday, the regulator responded to the BMA by ‘strongly rejecting’ the basis of the ‘threatened’ legal proceedings.

Despite the GMC’s defensive arguments, the BMA confirmed it will proceed with an application for a judicial review.

As well as the use of the term ‘medical professionals’, the BMA also seeks to challenge the GMC’s decision to apply its central guidance for doctors – Good Medical Practice – to associate roles ‘equally’, once they are regulated from December.

In response, the regulator said it believes ‘the grounds for the threatened judicial review are not even arguable’.

A spokesperson continued: ‘We have extensively and formally consulted with the BMA over several years in relation to the core standards to be set for PAs and AAs, Good medical practice.

‘From as early as 2021 we made the BMA and others aware of our intention to apply our core professional standards to doctors, PAs and AAs, and received no objections from them at all. Our approach, in publishing a single set of core standards, is consistent with that of other multi-profession healthcare regulators.’

On the term ‘medical professionals’, the GMC argued that it is ‘not a protected title’ and therefore its use for all professional groups is ‘both lawful and appropriate’.

The spokesperson added: ‘We have made it very clear we will recognise and regulate doctors, PAs and AAs as three distinct professions.

‘We have also been consistent in saying that, as their regulator, we will expect PAs and AAs to always work under some degree of supervision and to practise within their competence. They will have a responsibility to clearly communicate who they are, and their role in the team.’

Following this statement yesterday, the doctors’ union put out a response, saying the GMC’s ‘refusal to recognise doctors’ concerns’ is ‘deeply disappointing’.

A spokesperson said: ‘In terms of the use of “medical professionals” to apply to those who are not doctors and who do not have a medical degree, we wrote to the GMC formally objecting to this in December 2020.

‘In response, the GMC offered reassurance that doctors, and PAs and AAs, have very different roles and responsibilities that shouldn’t be confused; that it didn’t believe the umbrella term would do that; that it would only use it when appropriate to the circumstances; and that the majority of its communications would be tailored to refer to each profession individually.’

According to the BMA, the ‘increasing demonstrable confusion’ between doctors and other professionals is ‘clearly a departure’ from these assurances offered by the GMC back in 2020.

‘Clearly the GMC’s ongoing use of this inappropriate collective term means action is sadly necessary. We will therefore be moving forward with our application for a judicial review,’ the spokesperson added.

Following a vote at last week’s Annual Representative Meeting (ARM), the BMA committed to exploring ‘fee withdrawal’ from the GMC if it fails to address concerns around the regulation of PAs.

The motion asserted that union members have ‘no confidence’ in the GMC’s ability to distinguish ‘doctors from medically unqualified care providers’.



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

SUBHASH BHATT 3 July, 2024 11:29 am

Doctors,, PAs and AAs as three distinct professions, says GMC, so do make them Visibly distinct, dissimilar, unmistakable and separate. This is what distinct means..

Mark Howson 3 July, 2024 11:51 am

The law is not just about a protected term of Registered
Medical practitioner. No patient in normal speech uses this term. We use doctor commonly and someone who has a doctorate but is not a registered medical practitioner breaks the criminal law if by using the title Dr they give the impression to the patient they are a registered medical practitioner. The same would be true of someone saying they are a medical professional and giving the impression they are a registered medical professional. And most members of the public would be fooled into thinking such a person was a “doctor” ( ie a registered medical practitioner).

J Smith 3 July, 2024 12:46 pm

Its ok for GMC to fight legal action against BMA, what could happen? GMC wins- all good, GMC loose- legal fees would be paid by subscription fees and subscription will increase, nothing will happen to those in GMC who took the decision to fight (legal fees does not come out of pocket of spokesperson or CM)

Larry LameLamb 3 July, 2024 1:38 pm

My direct debit is about to pay this self serving and arrogant body a heap of cash come August. I have to pay them. I have no choice. I’ve had nothing from these people other than a few expensively printed pamphlets over an entire 25 year career. Their isolated untouchable conceit is palpable. Disband the GMC. They’re a corrupt politicised sham. An embarrassment to UK medical practice. Disband the GMC

Truth Finder 3 July, 2024 2:37 pm

The GMC should change it’s name then. General, medical, physician assistant council. The BMA would be more helpful if the set up an alternate regulator. One that is not racist, authoritarian and run by professionals who knows the profession. The head would need to have the MbChB or MBBS. We have all lost confidence in the GMC.

Nick Mann 3 July, 2024 3:14 pm

The question for me regarding protected titles, is always what the inference would be for any patient.
It’s highly unlikely that any average patient would be able to discern a difference between a ‘medical practitioner’ and a ‘medical professional’. To all intents and purposes, the two terms should be bracketed. By devising a difference in usage between these two terms, GMC is directly responsible for causing potential harm to patients, in the knowledge of creating confusion amongst patients and other services.
Secondly, GMC confounds already accepted usage of protected titles. The term “Osteopath Associate” has a long established use: as a qualified Osteopath who works in a practice salaried to the principal Osteopath. It’s the Osteopath equivalent of a salaried GP. “Osteopath Associate” has ‘Osteopath’ as the stem of its protected title, with ‘Associate’ describing their employment terms – however, with “Physician Associate”, the protected title ‘Physician’ already exists elsewhere and ‘Associate’ defines it as an entirely different role and qualification.
This is confusing, confused and contradictory. If GMC is demonstrably unable to understand the arguments, then this is exactly why such a judicial review is necessary, indeed essential.