The GMC’s proposal to replace the existing statement in Good Medical Practice which sets out the threshold for regulatory action, risks significantly increasing the number of cases which fall well short of the threshold, creating further distrust of the regulator, according to Medical Protection.

As part of the GMC’s consultation on proposed changes to the guidance which stipulates what is expected of all registered doctors – it proposes removing the existing threshold statement: ‘only serious or persistent failure to follow this guidance will put your registration at risk’ and replacing it with an explanation that it acts: ‘where there is a risk to patients, or public confidence in medical professionals, or where it is necessary to maintain professional standards.’

Medical Protection says the proposed broader statement is open to interpretation and is not sufficient in setting out the seriousness of concerns that the GMC is focused on.

Dr Rob Hendry, Medical Director at Medical Protection, said:

“We welcome the GMC’s drive to bring this core guidance outlining the behaviours expected of doctors up to date. The world of healthcare has become increasingly more complex since Good Medical Practice was last updated and the GMC has set out some helpful proposed changes, including in the important area of consent.

“The proposed removal of the existing statement setting out the threshold for when the GMC acts is however a concern. We understand that in proposing this change the GMC is trying to explain more comprehensively when it might take action to protect the public, however we believe the previous statement is clearer in setting expectations to doctors, patients and the public the level of concerns that are appropriate to be referred to the GMC.

“The new proposed statement is not sufficient in setting out the seriousness of concerns that the GMC is focused on and may open the flood gates to cases that fall well short of the threshold for action.

In recent years the GMC has received an average of 8,600 enquires a year in relation to a doctor’s fitness to practise but less than 2% of this number result in erasure or suspension each year. This would suggest there is already a significant disconnect between the expectations of those referring doctors to the GMC and the purpose of the regulator. Removing the existing threshold statement will only exacerbate this issue.

“I cannot overstate the need to get this right – trust in the regulator is currently on a knife edge. There is consensus on the need for many more concerns to be dealt with earlier and without need for the GMC to be involved and the regulator has made progress in trying to achieve this over recent years. Changes that could compromise this work and result in more cases being needlessly referred and proceeding to a hearing must be avoided at all costs.”

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