General Medical Council to elect a new president to succeed Irvine

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 03 November 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:1026
  1. Caroline White
  1. London

    Members of the General Medi-cal Council will elect a new president next week to succeed Sir Donald Irvine, who steps down from the post at the end of the year.

    Nominations, which require the support of two of the 104 council members, closed last month. Candidates will have the opportunity to put their case at a dinner the night before the election at the Royal College of Physicians in London.

    The six nominees have all served or continue to serve on various GMC committees. They are Professor Graeme Catto, Professor James Drife, Dr Brian Keighley, Mr Olusola Oni, Dr Shiv Pande, and Professor Wendy Savage.

    Professor Catto is thought to be favourite to win the contest, which will be secured by single transferable vote, and the winner will be announced immediately after the votes have been counted on 6 November. The term of office is for a maximum of seven years, but council membership is for a fixed term of five years, so any president would have to be re-elected to the council first. All members of the council, the body that regulates the UK medical profession, are elected at the same time, and the next election is in 2004.

    The winner is likely to preside over a period of transition as the council agreed to a package of reforms in July this year. If approved by the government and parliament, the proposals would change fitness to practise procedures and reduce the number of council members to 35, 40% of whom would be drawn from the lay public. Currently, 54 members are elected by the profession, 25 are nominated by medical bodies, and 25 are from the lay public. Legislation to put the reforms into effect is expected next year.

    Professor Catto is vice principal and professor of medicine at King's College, London. He serves on the president's advi-sory committee, is chair of the education committee, and has been a member of several other GMC committees and panels since 1994. He argues for the GMC to adopt a more coordinated and rapid response to internal and external business and to get involved in urgently overhauling the NHS complaints procedure. He proposes a policy and resources committee to draw up a draft strategy for all council business and to devise an operational plan for the following year.

    Professor Drife, a council member since 1994, is professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Leeds and is a member of several committees at the GMC, involved in aspects of fitness to practise and revalidation. He proposes closer cooperation with the royal colleges and the BMA, the expedition of complaints referred to the council, and the effective implementation of revalidation. He favours a less “presidential” and more “cabinet” style of leadership.

    Dr Keighley has been a council member since 1994. He is a general practice principal in Glasgow and serves on several council committees, including the governance working group, of which he is the chairman. He believes that the GMC's primary task is to rebuild a disaffected profession's confidence in its regulatory body without losing the support of the public or the government. He contends that the GMC president should be subject to revalidation, just like any other doctor. He feels that now is a time of consolidation before any further changes are made at the GMC.

    Mr Oni is a consultant orthopaedic surgeon who is training in healthcare management in Leicester. A council member since 1999, he describes himself as the “no baggage president” and would work to sweep away the perceptions of the GMC as a “retirement home for ex-doctors” guilty of parochial and unfocused leadership. He hopes to do this by simplifying internal judicial and decision making processes, encouraging greater democratic accountability, and refocusing the GMC on self regulation for the profession.

    A council member since 1994, Dr Pande is a general practice principal in inner city Liverpool and a member of several committees, currently serving on those for preliminary proceedings, and finance and establishment (and is treasurer of this last committee). He believes that the time has come for the GMC to take stock and manage the changes before “we are derailed and disowned by the profession or the public.”

    Professor Savage is honorary senior lecturer in obstetrics and gynaecology at St Bartholomew's and the Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry and honorary visiting professor at Middlesex University Faculty School of Social Science. A council member since 1989, she is currently serving on the professional performance and interim orders committees. She is standing, she says, because the GMC needs a change of face and style and in the belief that she has the qualities required to take it forward. These include negotiating with the government, using the media effectively, and not being widely perceived to be part of the orthodox medical establishment. If elected, she proposes the election of a vice president.

    The GMC should not be seen as a “retirement home for ex-doctors”

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    Graeme Catto

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    James Drife

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    Brian Keighley

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    Olusola Oni

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    Shiv Pande

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    Wendy Savage

    (Credit: TOPHAM PICTURE)

    Candidates for the presidency of the General Medical Council (clockwise from top left): Graeme Catto, James Drife, Olusola Oni, Wendy Savage, Shiv Pande, and Brian Keighley. The winner will preside over a period of transition as the council introduces a package of reforms.

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