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Last Updated: Thursday, 16 December, 2004, 23:24 GMT
Doctor testing plans face review
Harold Shipman
The Shipman Inquiry has called for General Medical Council reform
Plans for regular testing of doctors are to be reviewed in light of the findings of the Shipman Inquiry.

A scheme under which doctors would face an "MOT" around once every five years had been due to be introduced by the General Medical Council next April.

But the inquiry into serial killer GP Harold Shipman has said an independent body should handle disciplinary matters.

The Department of Health has now delayed introducing testing to allow a review of the inquiry's proposals.

The Shipman Inquiry, led by Dame Janet Smith, published a report earlier this month calling for reform of the General Medical Council (GMC).

There may well be a need to improve and strengthen the arrangements in the interests of patients and doctors alike
Department of Health
Among the recommendations were that assessment of doctors' performance needed improvement, and that the GMC should no longer have sole responsibility for assessing fitness to practise.

The government said it now wanted to carry out consultation across the medical profession about the inquiry's proposals.

Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson will lead the consultation and set any new start date for a licensing scheme.

Health Minister Lord Warner said: "It would be unfair to doctors and confusing for patients to start the new revalidation scheme on one basis and then to make changes after considering Dame Janet's report.

"That is why the changes cannot proceed as planned."

'Public confidence'

A Department of Health spokesman added: "There may well be a need to improve and strengthen the arrangements in the interests of patients and doctors alike."

The planned licensing scheme had been due to include all 200,000 doctors registered with the GMC.

A GMC spokeswoman said the purpose of the scheme was to "create public confidence that all licensed doctors are up to date and fit to practise".

"If there are ways of improving the revalidation model we have proposed, we would of course want to include them in our plans."

Sir Graeme Catto, GMC President, added: "I welcome the review. The GMC will shortly be writing to all doctors on the register on this issue."

James Johnson, chairman of the British Medical Association, said: "We can understand why it's necessary to do this, as we wouldn't want to see two different forms of revalidation.

But we would want the delay to be a short one.

"It is important both doctors and patients have confidence in the revalidation system and that includes whether it is workable.

"No one want a procedure that is so hide-bound with bureaucracy the NHS cannot deliver the care patients need."

Mayur Lakhani, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: "As the Shipman report rightly highlighted - the majority of doctors provide a good level of care.

"However, the public have a right to expect a system of revalidation that weeds out the small proportion of doctors who are performing poorly."

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