Seriously deficient professional performance

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.312.7040.1180 (Published 11 May 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:1180
  1. Stephen Brearley
  1. Consultant surgeon (and member of the GMC) Whipps Cross Hospital, London E11 1NR

    Needs defining as that which puts the public at risk

    The Medical (Professional Performance) Act, which became law last November, has given powers to the General Medical Council (GMC) to take action when it seems that a doctor's professional performance may be seriously deficient. The council has been concerned for some time about its inability to intervene when consistently poor care seems to result not from misconduct but from a doctor's inadequate knowledge and skills, and it sees the new powers as essential if it is to fulfil its duty to protect the public. There has also been external pressure for a means of addressing poor performance among doctors, and if the task had not been given to the GMC an alternative mechanism would almost certainly have been demanded.

    Consultations with medical organisations, patients' representatives, and politicians before enactment of the legislation showed wide support for the proposed measure, but doctors are clearly worried that the resulting “performance procedures” could prove inquisitorial and oppressive.1 The GMC now has the task of devising assessment procedures that are reliable, fair, and enjoy public confidence but avoid being cumbersome or onerous. This is a complex and difficult task, given the wide variation in types of medical work and the very different skills …

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