GP Online reports political support for plans to scrap the ‘five-year rule’ and categorise doctors with health concerns as lacking ‘competence’.
According to GP Online, two MPs who are also doctors – Dr Dan Poulter and Dr Philippa Whitford – have joined medical defence organisation the MDDUS in warning that the changes are potentially ‘damaging’ and ‘threaten the fairness’ of GMC investigations.
In a letter to health and social care secretary Sajid Javid, the MPs argued that removing health issues as a reason for an investigation by the professional regulator into a doctor’s fitness to practise would deny them a defence on reasons related to health.
They said: ‘It is not appropriate for health to be placed into the same ground as competency and is extremely problematic in terms of the way in which sensitive health issues are viewed, especially in the immediate aftermath of lockdown and the peak of COVID-19.
Conservative MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich Dr Poulter said: ‘The proposals on the table to reform the GMC are generally very welcome, so it is disappointing and concerning they include two proposals that put in jeopardy the principle that FtP investigations are both fair and concluded faster.
‘In the immediate aftermath of COVID-19 it is absolutely vital that cases brought under health grounds are dealt with sensitively and appropriately.
SNP MP for Central Ayrshire Dr Philippa Whitford said: ‘These two proposals are of grave concern and threaten the fairness of FtP investigations. The health of our workforce is a very important and live issue, and to categorise health as a lack of competence would be an inappropriate and damaging way to view sensitive health issues.’
Dr Holden added: ‘We are working with Dr Poulter and Dr Whitford and hope the health secretary will urgently reconsider these proposals to ensure fairness in investigations and confidence for healthcare professionals. Failure to abandon these proposals could lead to serious unintended consequences for the rights of doctors at a time when they are already facing considerable pressure.’