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Monday, 22 May, 2000, 15:20 GMT 16:20 UK
Swifter discipline for doctors
The General Medical Council is set for reform
The General Medical Council (GMC) has pledged to speed up its disciplinary procedures and end the huge backlog of cases waiting to be heard.

The move is part of a campaign to re-establish public confidence in the right of doctors' to police their own profession in the wake of the Bristol babies scandal and the Shipman murder trial.

Council members will on Tuesday debate proposals for all doctors accused of serious professional misconduct to have their cases heard within a year.

I want to dispel the image of the GMC as some kind of boy's club

Sir Donald Irvine, president, General Medical Council

This will be done by a major shake-up of the current system, including the use of lay members to sit in judgement of doctors under investigation.

There are currently 160 doctors with hearings pending before the GMC's Professional Conduct Committee - and a third have been waiting for more than a year.

GMC president Sir Donald Irvine has said that by the end of 2001, all cases would be dealt with within 12 months of being referred to the PCC.

Current position 'untenable'

Sir Donald Irvine
Sir Donald Irvine is keen to re-establish public confidence
He said: "The current waiting time is untenable and needs to be improved.

"We know that this is the biggest cause of anxiety for both the public and the profession."

By July the GMC hopes a parliamentary order will be made enabling it to appoint lay members to PCC committees.

Four PCC committees might run simultaneously, instead of the current two, and the GMC hopes to reduce the number of pending cases to a maximum of 35.

The parliamentary order will also allow the GMC to impose an interim suspension on a doctor before his case has been before the PCC.

A legal loophole currently means that doctors accused of a criminal offence and serious professional misconduct cannot be suspended until the police proceedings are over.

The loophole allowed serial killer Harold Shipman GP to continue drawing his salary until after he was convicted of murdering 15 women patients.


Changes to GMC procedures will also mean more serious cases are "fast-tracked" before the PCC committees.

The minimum period for which a doctor can be struck off the Medical Register will be increased from 10 months to five years.

The moves are designed to restore public confidence in the medical profession and protect self-regulation for doctors, which has come under threat after a series of scandals, including the Shipman murders and the Bristol heart babies case.

. The GMC is setting out plans for the revalidation of doctors, which will require them to prove their continuing fitness to practice.

Sir Donald said "radical reforms" were needed to ensure patients had confidence in the medical profession.

He said: "I want to dispel the image of the GMC as some kind of boy's club.

"We can protect patients and help doctors, and I think we can build a bridge between the two."

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02 Mar 00 | Health
Doctors turn on the GMC
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