Proposed GMC reforms risk undermining treatment of healthcare professionals with health concerns

The MDU has renewed its call for doctors’ fitness to practise procedures to continue to recognise health concerns as a special category.

During Mental Health Awareness Week, the UK’s leading medical defence organisation has called for regulatory procedures to continue to recognise vulnerable healthcare professionals.

Proposed legislation governing the way the General Medical Council (GMC) can pursue fitness to practise cases against physician associates and anaesthesia associates (PAs and AAs) will form a blueprint for the way doctors are regulated in future.

The MDU is concerned that under the current proposals, the GMC’s ability to pursue fitness to practice action against a registrant under 'health concerns' will be removed.

Dr Michael Devlin, head of professional standards and liaison, said:

"It is very disappointing, that despite strong support for the status quo from the MDU, medical royal colleges, trade unions and notably the GMC itself, the government intends to remove the GMC’s ability to pursue fitness to practice action against a registrant under a distinct category of health concerns – something it is currently able to do.

"Health concerns will instead be dealt with under the umbrella of ‘inability to provide care to a sufficient standard’. No rationale has been provided by the government in its response to an earlier consultation on why the GMC should lose this valuable fitness to practise mechanism.

"A recent MDU member survey found nine in 10 healthcare professionals said they felt worn out at the end of a working day and eight in 10 said they felt burned out. Given the growing evidence about the health impacts on the profession of current working pressures, the proposals must take account of this. We urge the government to reconsider these plans and to ensure reforms lead to a more compassionate system for those being investigated and in particular that health is retained as a standalone ground for impairment of fitness to practise."

The MDU also called on the government to prioritise delivering reform of the GMC and the regulation of doctors.

Dr Devlin continued: "While we warmly welcome the introduction of statutory regulation for AAs and PAs, we are very concerned about the ongoing delay to the much-needed doctors' regulatory reforms. The government committed to bring forward the necessary legislation last year to enable a fundamentally reformed GMC. That, of course, did not materialise – and now we face a prospect of the GMC having to operate a dual system of regulation, regulating registrants in two different ways. This should not endure for a day longer than it has to."

This page was correct at publication on 17/05/2023. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.