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Current GMC should be disbanded, says former President

A former President of the General Medical Council has called for the current Council to be disbanded and re-formed with new members.

Writing in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Sir Donald Irvine examines the future of the GMC following the publication of the Chief Medical Officer’s ‘Good doctors, safer patients’ report.

"The Council needs to be disbanded and its successor formed with members, medical and lay, who can give it a convincing fresh start," said Sir Donald.

"The key function of the GMC should be to set the standards required for practice, and through its control of the registers, make sure that all who hold registration with it abide by those standards.

"The recent criticisms of the current GMC will make it virtually impossible for it to make the cultural transformation needed to achieve this with confidence and conviction, even if it wanted to," he said.

Sir Donald’s editorial outlines how good doctoring can be achieved in light of the proposals made in the CMO’s report.

Welcoming Sir Liam’s focus on securing good doctors for all patients, Sir Donald says that "patients should feel they can trust any doctor without having to think about it. There is abundant evidence that the public know what they want – essentially doctors who are technically competent, are capable of forming and maintaining good relationships and are honest."

In his article Sir Donald supports the general thrust of Sir Liam’s proposals for revalidation, particularly in strengthening the role of the Royal Colleges. But he is critical of the GMC’s current advocacy of a light-touch, risk-based approach to revalidation where the practice of some doctors would be looked at more thoroughly than others.

He agrees with Sir Liam who said "there is no easy way of defining all high-risk groups in medicine…lighter touch regulation would mean that some ongoing risk to patients would have to be accepted by society."

"Why should the public be asked to accept a risk that is largely avoidable?” asked Sir Donald.

“After all it is patients, not doctors, who may be killed or injured by poor doctoring," he said.

"The risk-based strategy is not compatible with the concept of a guarantee to the public of a good doctor for all. It is therefore essential that the risk-based concept be clearly explained to the public in a very straightforward manner.

"If politicians decide to support this line they need first to demonstrate that they have the public’s fully informed consent."

Sir Donald said the public and the profession needed a strong, confident GMC: "Sir Liam’s report has given us the blueprint. It’s time to start moving forward," he said.

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Good Doctors, Safer Patients: the Chief Medical Officer’s prescription for regulating doctors [PDF 43k]

'‘Good Doctors, Safer Patients: the Chief Medical Officer’s prescription for regulating doctors' is published in the September 2006 issue of Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.

JRSM is the flagship journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. It has been published continuously since 1809. Its Editor is Dr Kamran Abbasi.

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