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EDITIONS
The Bristol heart babies Monday, 15 March, 1999, 23:28 GMT
Senior doctors could get MOTs
Bristol Royal Infirmary
The repercussions of the Bristol case rumble on
Senior doctors could be made to prove their qualifications are up to scratch every five years, according to the head of the General Medical Council.

The Bristol Heart Babies
Sir Donald Irvine, president of the GMC, has proposed the five-yearly MOT for hospital consultants in the run-up to a special meeting later this month on the future of the GMC's specialist register.

Every new hospital consultant is on the GMC register, which validates their qualfications for the job.

Sir Donald's proposals come in the wake of the Bristol baby scandal in which three doctors were found guilty of serious professional misconduct earlier this year following the deaths of 29 babies in heart operations at Bristol Royal Infirmary.

The doctors allowed operations to continue despite the fact that their mortality rate was much higher than the national average.

The scandal resulted in the government setting up hospital league tables to monitor the clinical performance of hospitals.

Last week, the British Medical Association published its proposals on how doctors should assess their peers in a bid to avert a similar scandal in the future.

Royal colleges

Sir Donald says individual royal colleges, governing particular medical specialisms, should produce their own criteria for measuring whether doctors are still up to scratch.

He told Hospital Doctor magazine: "The purpose of revalidated registration in each speciality would be to enable consultants to demonstrate the quality of their professionalism to the outside world. Practitioners on such a register would have good reason to hold their heads high."

The BMA has given a cautious welcome to the proposals. Dr Peter Hawker told Hospital Doctor: "Now Sir Donald has let the genie of revalidation out of the bottle like this, it won't get back in again."

However, the question remains of how to devise ways of measuring doctors' credentials and whether they have kept up-to-date with medical advances.

At a recent meeting, Sir Cyril Chantler, chairman of the GMC's standards committee, said it was all very well to set standards, but many, such as recording whether a doctor had been to a lecture on medical advances, could be meaningless if it could not be proven if the doctor had learnt anything. Attendance at lectures was not enough, he said.

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