Worry that sick doctors will be hit by GMC reform

By Douglas Shepherd

The MDU has renewed its plea for doctors’ fitness-to-practise procedures to continue to recognise health concerns as a special category. 

Proposed legislation governing the way the GMC can pursue fitness-to-practise cases against physician associates and anaesthesia associates (PAs and AAs) forms a blueprint for the way doctors are regulated in future.

But the MDU fears current proposals mean the regulatory body’s ability to pursue fitness-to-practise action against a registrant under ‘health concerns’ will be removed. 

Dr Michael Devlin

Dr Michael Devlin, head of professional standards and liaison, said: ‘It is very disappointing that, despite strong support for the status quo from the MDU, medical royal colleges, trade unions and notably the GMC itself, the Government intends to remove the GMC’s ability to pursue fitness-to-practise action against a registrant under a distinct category of health concerns – something it is currently able to do.

‘Health concerns will instead be dealt with under the umbrella of “inability to provide care to a sufficient standard”. No rationale has been provided by the Government in its response to an earlier consultation on why the GMC should lose this valuable fitness-to-practise mechanism.’ 

A recent MDU member survey found nine-in-ten healthcare professionals said they felt worn-out at the end of a working day and eight-in-ten felt burned-out. 

Dr Devlin believes that, with the growing evidence of the health impacts of work pressures on doctors, the proposals should take account of this. 

‘We urge the Government to reconsider these plans and to ensure reforms lead to a more compassionate system for those being investigated and, in particular, that health is retained as a stand-alone ground for impairment of fitness to practise.’

The MDU also asked the Gov­ern­ment to prioritise delivering GMC reforms over doctor regulation.