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Saturday 26th May 2018

Doctors to face tougher rules

30th October 2006

04032006_DoctorAtPC2.jpgFailing and incompetent doctors could soon face a tough new disciplinary system aimed at making the profession more accountable to the public.

Doctors currently face investigation for their ‘fitness to practise’ which is judged by the same standard of proof required for criminal prosecutions. But under the new rules, the measure will change from being proved ‘beyond reasonable doubt’, to ‘on balance of probabilities’.

The move is part of wider measures to ensure public protection and improve public trust. Recent high profile cases include Harold Shipman, jailed for 15 murders, gynaecologist Rodney Ledward, and GP Clifford Ayling, convicted of 13 counts of indecent assault on female patients.

The new scheme is being considered by the profession’s regulatory body, the General Medical Council (GMC) in response to a report by Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer earlier this year.

The move is being blocked by doctors’ representatives who fear it will lead to miscarriages of justice. A group of more than 700 doctors wrote to The Times newspaper, while a campaign by GP newspaper Pulse has received support from hundreds more.

But the GMC has insisted that it will not mean more doctors being struck off. While doctors found guilty of lesser charges could be ordered to undergo training or supervision, more serious allegations will have to be met by a higher standard of proof. Doctors accused of minor charges may be dealt with away from public disciplinary hearings.

Before any changes go ahead, the government will need give their approval.

Last year saw 273 doctors come before ‘fitness to practise’ panels. A total of 36 were struck off, 89 were suspended and 80 had conditions or restrictions placed on them. Others received warnings.

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