Plans by the General Medical Council's (GMC) to change the way the medical profession is regulated in the UK will lead to 'an unhealthy climate of fear' says the British Medical Association. As a result, doctors will be reluctant to innovate and will be pushed into practising defensive medicine.
In response to the GMC's consultation on the standard of proof to be used in fitness to practise hearings, the BMA said today1 (Tuesday 30 October 2007) that the proposed changes could make doctors less willing to attempt new cutting-edge procedures in case these fail and the doctors find themselves in front of the GMC trying to defend their actions.
The BMA also says that there is no evidence that changing from the criminal standard of proof (beyond reasonable doubt) to the civil one (the balance of probabilities), will protect patients from dangerous or incompetent doctors. The Association is dismayed that the GMC is consulting on its plans about how to implement the civil standard, rather than, seeking views on the principle of the change.
BMA Chairman, Dr Hamish Meldrum, said today:
"If a doctor is at risk of losing his or her livelihood then nothing less than the current criminal standard of proof will do and the BMA will do all it can to maintain this. Any restriction on a doctor's ability to practise medicine, even quite limited conditions, can seriously damage their career and often ends their full-time employment and can compromise their position as a trainer. The GMC's consultation document does not acknowledge this or the fact that such findings will stay on a doctor's record for a number of years."
"Surely if someone's entire working life is at risk then there should be no reasonable doubt in reaching such a far-reaching decision? While patient safety is paramount, the BMA does not believe these proposals are the right way forward."
Dr Meldrum recently wrote2 to all BMA members about the proposals to change medical regulation in the UK and asked for their support in maintaining professionally-led regulation for the benefit of patients and doctors.