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Thursday, 8 November, 2001, 19:11 GMT
Early warning system for doctors
The GMC proposes fundamental reforms
The General Medical Council has agreed fundamental reforms to the way it deals with under-performing doctors.

The new system is designed to speed up the complaint process and ensure that errant doctors receive an official warning about their conduct as soon as possible.

It would apply to doctors whose performance gives cause for concern, but which is not so bad that they need to be barred from practice.

At present, doctors have to go through a conduct hearing just to receive a reprimand.

Under the new system doctors who accept that they have done wrong will be issued with an official warning without the need for a lengthy hearing.

The proposals, agreed at a two-day GMC meeting this week, will now be put to the government for further consultation.


Primary legislation will have to be changed before they can be enacted.

Outgoing GMC president Sir Donald Irvine said: "This system would be used where the investigating committee was doubtful that it could get the case to stick but was uneasy about the doctor's practice.

"Until now the case would be dropped. This has been very unsatisfactory."

Under the proposals, the GMC would decide if and how the doctor's other patients would be told of a warning.

If doctors did not agree with their warning┐s they would be able to argue their case at a hearing.

Membership cut

Graeme Catto
Professor Graeme Catto is the new GMC president
The GMC also finally endorsed reforms to cut council membership cut by two-thirds to help streamline the council and ensure much greater lay involvement in the regulation of doctors.

The council is to be reduced from 104 to 35 members, with 40% coming from outside the medical profession.

The GMC has been under fire in the wake of a series of medical scandals, and widely accused of not doing enough to protect the public from bad doctors. .

The Council also decided to create a GP register, like the specialist register, showing which doctors meet the requirements for practice in their speciality.

A new Investigations Committee, comprising both members and non-members of Council, will oversee the initial handling of all complaints.

Complainants will not in future be allowed to present their cases themselves.

The term "serious professional misconduct" is also to be scrapped.

In future, rulings will be explained in terms of the degree of impairment of a doctor's fitness to practise.

Dr Ian Bogle, chairman of the British Medical Association's Council, said: "It is important for the GMC to be dealing with the right sort of complaints.

"Provided they are, it seems a proper and sensible way forward."

See also:

06 Nov 01 | Health
New man in GMC hotseat
24 May 01 | Health
GMC boss stepping down early
28 May 01 | Health
System 'weeding out poor doctors'
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