Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments Thirty-Second Report


Memorandum by the Department of Health


1. The Committee asked for an explanation of the reasons for the increases in fees specified in the provisions substituted by regulations 4 to 6. We have been supplied with the following explanation by the General Medical Council. The GMC is an independent statutory body established under the Medical Acts, the most recent of these being the Medical Act 1983.

2. In May 1999, the General Medical Council agreed the first increase in registration fees since May 1991. The Council noted that, in the eight years since the last fee increase, our annual operating expenditure had increased from £8.7M to £20.5M.

3. The increase in operating expenditure was primarily caused by the rapid increase in our Fitness to Practise activity, including the introduction of new powers granted by the Medical (Professional Performance) Act 1995 and codified in the Statutory Instrument entitled General Medical Council (Professional Performance) Rules 1997. The Council noted that Professional Conduct Committee days had increased by 140 between 1991 and 1998, Preliminary Proceedings Committee days increased by 167% and the number of new Health Committee cases had increased by 101%. Despite this growth, the GMC had succeeded in containing costs but in 1998 it had operated at a deficit for the first time since 1991, and was budgeting for a deficit in 1999.

4. In setting the new fees, from 1 January 2000, the Council took the opportunity to simplify and rationalise the fees structure. Rather than 26 different fees, the Council agreed a fee of £130 for all initial applications, renewals, extensions and restorations, with the exception of applications for provisional registration, which was set at £80.

5. Although most doctors paid more from 1 January 2000, some fees decreased. For example, some overseas qualified doctors had paid up to £350 for a renewal of limited registration.

6. The revised fees structure was intended to restore the Council's budget to a small surplus. In the event, Fitness to Practise activity has continued to accelerate. Professional Performance cases are up by 600% since 1999, and three Professional Conduct Committee panels will each sit for 50 weeks, compared to one panel sitting for 20 weeks in 1997. The financial effect of this rapid growth, is a budgeted deficit of £2.2M in 2000, rather than the small surplus predicted. The increase in fees from 1 January 2001 is intended to eliminate the deficit and provide the additional resources required to meet the increases in public demand for our services.

7. From 1 January 2001, the fee for all initial applications, renewals, extensions and restorations, with the exception of applications for provisional registration, will £175. The fee for provisional registration will be £100.

8. The Council has agreed to review fees annually in May.

16 November 2000

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