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doctors and self-regulation « Previous | |Next »
February 21, 2007

I see that doctors in the UK may well lose their right to self-regulate (vet or police themselves) under a shake-up of their professional regulation. The General Medical Council (GMC) is likely to lose its powers of adjudication in fitness-to-practise cases and its professional elected medical majority could disappear. These responses are part of a set of reforms aimed at preventing another Harold Shipman tragedy, the medical scandal at the U.K.'s Bristol Royal Infirmary, and the ongoing professional cover ups and closed ranks. We are dealing with a history of the medical profession that is littered with mal practice and professional mis-conduct.

As Sir Liam Donaldson, the chief medical officer, says in Good doctors, safer patients times are changing:

...medical regulation has traditionally been synonymous with ‘self-regulation’. Until the late 1970s, medicine occupied a privileged and relatively protected position within British society. There was a belief that bad doctors were few and far between. A view prevailed that the quality of care was difficult to define and impossible to measure. There was also a pervasive philosophy that a doctor’s performance was not the business of colleagues or management. Moreover, there was a culture in which information was neither forthcoming nor transparent to patients. In the 1980s and 1990s, high-profile cases of poor performance steadily eroded this consensus and the concept of pure self-regulation was increasingly perceived to be outmoded. Simultaneously, society had moved on. Blind deference to the professions on the part of the public had largely disappeared. Instead, the public came to see itself as the consumer of services: as such, people were entitled to expect certain standards in return for the taxpayer’s considerable investment.

Self-regulation is still the norm in Australia and it has not protected patients from harm, as the case of "Dr Death", Jayant Patel, in Queensland attests. Will the CoAG reform process lead to health professional losing their right to self-regulate?

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:18 AM |