Revamp of medical regulators will resolve complaints quicker

By Robin Stride

Complaints against doctors will be resolved faster and more flexibly under Government proposals for a new legislative framework for medical regulators, according to the GMC.

It said the plan, in a consultation paper, would reduce stress for doctors and patients and ensure the public is protected sooner. 

GMC chief executive Charlie Massey said: ‘It’s been nearly 40 years since the legislation which underpins how we operate was passed and clearly, reform is long overdue. 

‘Medical practice, and expectations of care, have changed beyond recognition over the last few decades which means the need for regulation that can respond quickly and flexibly to changing environments has never been greater.

Charles Massey

‘This reform agenda gives us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to deliver real change – reforms that will allow us to work with less bureaucracy, provide a wide range of resolutions delivered faster and making sure our focus is even sharper on the needs of patients, clinicians, and employers.’

The Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC) 12-week consultation Regulating healthcare professionals, protecting the public – would give the council greater flexibility and autonomy to draft and adapt its own operational rules and procedures.

It says this would allow it to better protect patients, support registrants, and improve medical education.

The GMC said the consultation’s proposed reforms would allow it to: 

  • Resolve complaints more quickly and flexibly, reducing stress for patients and registrants, and ensuring the public is protected sooner;
  • Put more resource into supporting good practice, professionalism and preventing harm rather than just reacting when something goes wrong;
  • Deliver an accessible and flexible registration framework for all registrant groups based on qualifications, knowledge, skills and experience that can be adapted to respond to the changing needs of the healthcare system;     
  • Better monitor how education and training providers meet its standards, making sure that professionals are supported at all stages of their career;
  • Make improvements to its processes that benefit patients, professionals and the healthcare system more quickly and efficiently, without needing to request changes to legislation every time.

What happens next

The GMC said if the DHSC’s proposals for the overall framework were supported, then later this year there would be a further consultation on how it implements its new duties and powers. 

Parliament would need to approve these changes to legislation, possibly by spring 2022.

The council would then hold its own consultation on the various sets of rules, policies and guidance needed to introduce these reforms, before it could take forward any changes.