Date Published: 30 October 2007

BMA suggests new UK Healthcare Regulation will lead to 'climate of fear'

Comment on this subject:
IvyRose has commented on this issue before (BMA comment on the Health and Social Care Bill (UK)).
With possible effects on patients in mind, the following is included to balance the view of the BMA:

Medical mistakes/incompetence are more likely to lead to deaths and/or long-term suffering than mistakes in many other areas of human activity.

Anyone who is living with the long-term effects of what he or she believes to be medical negligence, or anyone who has suffered bereavement due to the loss of a friend or family member that "using a balance of probabilities" would be considered to be caused by medical negligence or incompetence might disagree with the BMA on this subject.

Removal of a person's livelihood is not to be taken lightly but when lives might be at risk, there is a strong argument that the public is "better safe than sorry". Everyone makes mistakes at some time and there should, of course, be checks and balances. However, each physician sees many patients and it is the government's first responsibility to protect the health and safety of those many patients rather than the career prospects of medical practitioners. Although a major penalty, if unable to practice medicine he or she would still have other career options, such as in medical writing/journalism, research, or in the pharmaceutical industry, etc..
In contrast, further errors or other ill-treatment of patients may result in further injury, distress, or death/s.

Readers will have their own experiences and those of friends, family and colleagues with which to form a personal opinion.


Plans by the General Medical Council’s (GMC) to change the way the medical profession is regulated in the UK will lead to ‘an unhealthy climate of fear’ says the British Medical Association. As a result, doctors will be reluctant to innovate and will be pushed into practising defensive medicine.

In response to the GMC’s consultation on the standard of proof to be used in fitness to practise hearings, the BMA said today, Tuesday 30 October 2007, that the proposed changes could make doctors less willing to attempt new cutting-edge procedures in case these fail and the doctors find themselves in front of the GMC trying to defend their actions.

The BMA also says that there is no evidence that changing from the criminal standard of proof (beyond reasonable doubt) to the civil one (the balance of probabilities), will protect patients from dangerous or incompetent doctors. The Association is dismayed that the GMC is consulting on its plans about how to implement the civil standard, rather than, seeking views on the principle of the change.

BMA Chairman, Dr Hamish Meldrum, said today:

If a doctor is at risk of losing his or her livelihood then nothing less than the current criminal standard of proof will do and the BMA will do all it can to maintain this. Any restriction on a doctor’s ability to practise medicine, even quite limited conditions, can seriously damage their career and often ends their full-time employment and can compromise their position as a trainer. The GMC’s consultation document does not acknowledge this or the fact that such findings will stay on a doctor’s record for a number of years.

He added:

Surely if someone’s entire working life is at risk then there should be no reasonable doubt in reaching such a far-reaching decision? While patient safety is paramount, the BMA does not believe these proposals are the right way forward.

Dr Meldrum recently wrote to all BMA members about the proposals to change medical regulation in the UK and asked for their support in maintaining professionally-led regulation for the benefit of patients and doctors.

Comment on this subject:
IvyRose has commented on this issue before (BMA comment on the Health and Social Care Bill (UK)).
With possible effects on patients in mind, the following is included to balance the view of the BMA:

Medical mistakes/incompetence are more likely to lead to deaths and/or long-term suffering than mistakes in many other areas of human activity.

Anyone who is living with the long-term effects of what he or she believes to be medical negligence, or anyone who has suffered bereavement due to the loss of a friend or family member that "using a balance of probabilities" would be considered to be caused by medical negligence or incompetence might disagree with the BMA on this subject.

Removal of a person's livelihood is not to be taken lightly but when lives may be at risk, there is a strong argument that the public is "better safe than sorry". Everyone makes mistakes at some time and there should, of course, be checks and balances. However, each physician sees many patients and it is the government's first responsibility to protect the health and safety of those many patients rather than the career prospects of medical practitioners. Although a major penalty, if unable to practice medicine he or she would still have other career options, such as in medical writing/journalism, research, or in the pharmaceutical industry, etc..
In contrast, further errors or other ill-treatment of patients may result in further injury, distress, or death/s.

Readers will have their own experiences and those of friends, family and colleagues with which to form a personal opinion.


Source: British Medical Association, UK
http://www.bma.org.uk

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