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GMC president Sir Donald Irvine
"This is a step in the modernisation of medical regulation"
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Wednesday, 11 October, 2000, 10:06 GMT 11:06 UK
GMC outlines reform plans
GMC
The GMC aims to agree reforms by the end of the year
The General Medical Council (GMC) has published plans to overhaul its structure in an effort to enable it to deal more effectively with rogue doctors.

The move aims to help the GMC to regain the trust of patients and doctors and follows an announcement that complaints against doctors are set to increase by almost 50% this year.

Under plans put forward on Wednesday, the number of doctors sitting on the GMC could be significantly reduced to enable it to meet more often and make decisions more quickly.

Patients may also get a greater say with increased representation on the Council.

The GMC has set out a number of options for change.

These include a much smaller Council comprising 25 members, 60 members or 100 members. This compares with 104 members at present.

Another model proposes setting up a small board of between 15 and 25 members. Lay members would have between six and 10 seats and it would have a medical president.

This would be backed up by a larger Council with equal representation for doctors and patients. This could be chaired by a lay representative.

Sir Donald Irvine
Sir Donald Irvine: Its' a step in modernisation

Plans have also been put forward to change the way the GMC investigates and hears fitness to practise cases against doctors.

At present, the GMC carries out both roles but this is expected to change next year.

According to officials, complaints against doctors have risen from 3,000 last year to 4,300 this year.

Some of these will be dealt with through the NHS complaints procedures.

However, the GMC's fitness to practise committee which hears cases against doctors is planning to sit for 50 weeks next year in an attempt to deal with the record number of complaints.

The reform proposals are outlined in a document which has been made available for public consultation.

Response are due to be returned within one month and will be considered by GMC members at a meeting in December.

Modernisation

GMC president Sir Donald Irvine told the BBC: "The steps that we are consulting on today represent another step in the modernisation of medical regulation."

Sir Donald said a "cultural change" was needed within the medical profession, but said there had been a "coming together" about what needed to be done.

High profile cases such as that of the Bristol heart babies, and rogue gynaecologists Rodney Ledward and Richard Neale have highlighted shortcomings in the current system of self-regulation.

The British Medical Association passed a vote of no confidence in the GMC at its annual meeting in June.

The government has outlined plans to introduce a new body to oversee the work of the GMC and other medical regulatory bodies.

The Consumer Association has urged the government to press ahead with its plans for an umbrella body to oversee the GMC and other regulation bodies.

It said failure to introduce the new body would mean that variations in standards would continue.

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