1. The General Medical Council (GMC) undertook
a consultation on its proposals for the revalidation of doctors
in early 2010. This consultation was the latest round of a discussion
of this subject which has now been going on for over ten years.
We therefore decided to undertake a brief inquiry into the reasons
for slow progress, the measures that were being proposed and the
reaction to them.
2. The Committee undertook this review in the
knowledge that the GMC is a statutory body which reports to the
Privy Council, and so it is not directly accountable to the Secretary
of State for Health.
3. As Niall Dickson said in evidence:
You described us as self-regulatory. We are accountable
to you, actually. We are not accountable to the Secretary of State,
but we are accountable to the UK Parliament.
4. Sir Donald Irvine argued that
To ensure its continuing effectiveness, the GMC needs
to be held to account for its management of medical regulation
and medical education. It needs the discipline and indeed the
support that can flow from public accountability, a fact the GMC
itself recognised and sought when in 2006 it responded to the
[Chief Medical Officer's] report on revalidation.
He said that the existing accountability arrangements
through the Privy Council were "insufficient and lacking
transparency" and that there was a need for regular select
committee hearings to review the GMC's work.
5. The Committee does not regard this as an arcane
matter; it goes to the heart of the status of the medical profession
as an independent profession which is responsible for setting
and applying its own standards. The GMC was originally established
in 1858 as the statutory regulator of an independent profession
in which each practitioner was granted professional freedom but
expected to recognise that with professional freedom comes professional
responsibility. The GMC is the guardian of the standards which
are implicit in that compact.
6. Even its most ardent advocate is compelled
to recognise that the GMC has a mixed record in the discharge
of that responsibility. However, the Committee supports the principle
of an independent profession which accepts responsibility for
setting and applying standards for its own members, provided it
is not interpreted as a freedom from accountability.
7. The current legislation makes
the GMC accountable to the Privy Council; in the absence of a
mechanism which makes this accountability effective we intend
to exercise this function ourselves, on behalf of Parliament.
8. In the course of our inquiry we held two oral
evidence sessions, one with the GMC and one with the British Medical
Association and the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, and received
written submissions from the Department of Health and 36 other
witnesses. We are grateful to all of those who contributed.
2 Q 50 Back
Ev w6 Back
ibid, para 23 Back