Editorials

Regulation of doctors and the Bristol inquiry

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.317.7172.1539 (Published 05 December 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:1539

Both need to be credible to both the public and doctors

  1. Richard Smith, Editor
  1. BMJ

    Education and debate pp 1577 1579 Letters p 1592 Personal view 1600

    Doctors in Britain have been insufficiently regulated for too long. It has been too easy for doctors to sink into poor and dangerous performance without anybody doing anything. Now—in response to a storm of publicity about bad doctors—we may be in danger of overregulation. The dangers of overregulation may be less obvious than those of underregulation, but in the long run they may be just as damaging.

    We contribute to the publicity storm today by publishing an account by a doctor who was appointed to the public inquiry into the case of inadequate cardiothoracic services for children in Bristol and then unceremoniously dumped for unconvincing, possibly political, reasons (p 1577).1 In the current climate it's especially important that the inquiry has the confidence of the medical profession—and that probably means having a doctor as a member.

    The question of whether the Bristol inquiry should include a doctor arises as the intensity of the debate over the regulation of doctors increases exponentially. The General Medical Council took a century and a half to introduce last year a system for responding to poorly performing doctors.2 Proliferating reports of dangerous doctors caused the last government to produce—embarrassingly slowly—guidance on poorly …

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