Medical leaders join forces to attack broken promise to reform GMC

Senior medical leaders have reacted with frustration to news that the Government will once again delay long-promised plans to reform the GMC.

Legislation to reshape the GMC had been expected this year, but will now not take place until 2024-25.

The Medical Defence Union (MDU) has co-ordinated a letter to Health Secretary Steve Barclay, signed by representatives of doctors’ trade unions and medical royal colleges. 

The letter’s signatories include the MDU, the BMA, the Royal College of Anaesthetists and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. 

In urging the Government to reconsider the timetable for reform, the medical leaders said that doctors would see a failure to reform their regulator this year as a broken promise.

Legislation to bring physician associates (PAs) and anaesthesia associates (AAs) into statutory regulation regime will happen in 2023 – meaning these professionals will be regulated differently by the GMC, with a much more modern regulatory regime.

Dr Matthew Lee

MDU chief executive Dr Matthew Lee said: ‘The news that the Government has shelved long-awaited reforms of the GMC until 2024-25 is disappointing, frustrating and surprising. Doctors across the UK have waited a long time to see their regulator reformed. This was promised for this year and it is a promise that must be honoured. 

‘A fitness-to-practise process is one of the most stressful experiences a doctor can have in their career, and current legislation is crying out for change.’

He said doctors deserved a fitness-to-practise process that was modern, proportionate, timely and, above all, fair. But, currently, the GMC was operating under outdated legislation that disadvantaged the profession, patients and the GMC itself.

‘As my colleagues and I from across the healthcare community say in our letter to the Secretary of State, we all stand ready to work with the Department of Health and Social Care over the coming months to ensure the legislation can be published by the end of the year.

‘It is time to move forward and deliver an up-to-date regulatory system. Regulation needs to deliver for doctors, so they can deliver for patients.’

Prof Philip Banfield

BMA Council chairman Prof Philip Banfield said: ‘The proposed reforms would have reduced the adversarial and combative nature of the fitness-to-practise process that is so stressful and damaging to doctors, with no additional benefit to patient safety.’

He added: ‘Most importantly, the Government must not use this delay to further renege on its promise to remove the GMC’s right to appeal fitness-to-practise tribunal decisions – something it committed to in 2018 – and we once again demand that this is honoured now.

‘That the GMC still has this legal right, which it has repeatedly and unfairly deployed against doctors in the past, is a great source of anxiety for doctors, and only heightens the fear and mistrust they have in their regulator.’