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Thursday, June 24, 1999 Published at 00:22 GMT 01:22 UK


Bad doctors slip through net - report

The report covers regulation systems like those run by the GMC

Patients are being treated by incompetent doctors, nurses and therapists because regulatory systems set up to protect them are 'patchy and risky', according to a report.

The National Consumer Council (NCC) says its investigation reveals a "mishmash" of different systems which confuse the public and often fail to weed out bad health workers.

The NCC - an independent body set up to protect consumers' interests - wants more controls on the private sector, where it says the greatest problems lie.

The public should be able to find out whether practitioners are registered and what the letters after their name mean, it says.

Nasty surprise

NCC director Anna Bradley said: "All this may come as a nasty surprise to consumers of healthcare services.

"The current self-regulatory system is an inadequate mishmash of different rules and arrangements for different professions. And regulation in the independent sector is particularly lax," she said.

The report says a doctor struck off for serious professional misconduct cannot practise as a doctor, but can still call himself one, and work at a health farm.

And anyone can call themselves a nurse, psychotherapist or hypnotherapist.

Ms Bradley said different health professions should work together to root out poor performers.

She said: "Rules must be consistently applied across the public and independent sectors. In the longer term, we should explore the potential of a one-stop-shop for consumer complaints, along the lines of the Financial Services Authority."

Nurses, doctors, dentists and other groups such as physiotherapists have separate regulatory bodies.

The General Dental Council has an Internet facility for patients to check whether their dentist is properly registered - but the General Medical Council (GMC) does not.

[ image: Rodney Ledward was struck off by the GMC]
Rodney Ledward was struck off by the GMC
The government plans tighter controls for private medicine, including an independent regulator to oversee inspections of private hospitals and clinics.

Bad doctors under microscope

The move was triggered by high-profile scandals including that involving surgeon Rodney Ledward, struck off by the GMC after a series of operations on women went wrong.

Ministers have already tabled plans for the Commission for Health Improvement, which will inspect NHS hospitals and try to root out failing doctors.

The NCC is also calling for increased public involvement in professional regulatory bodies.

Some, like the GMC, have controlling councils which include a high number of non-doctors, but others are dominated by professionals.

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