News

Reform of medical regulation is left off the Queen’s speech for a second time

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h2916 (Published 28 May 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h2916
  1. Gareth Iacobucci
  1. 1The BMJ

The General Medical Council (GMC) has said that it is “deeply disappointed” that the Queen’s speech did not include new legislation to change the regulation of healthcare professionals to give greater protection to patients.

The Law Commissions of the UK published draft legislation in 20141 to modernise current professional regulations and give regulators such as the GMC greater freedom to certificate the knowledge, skills, and competence of doctors in particular areas of practice.

In the wake of the PIP breast implant scandal and the review of cosmetic surgery by Bruce Keogh, NHS medical director,2 a law change could tighten current rules that allow doctors, including non-surgeons, to perform cosmetic surgery without undertaking additional training or qualifications.

But despite widespread support for the move the government opted not to enact the legislation in the Queen’s speech on Wednesday 27 May. It is the second time that the Regulation of Health and Social Care Professionals Bill has been excluded from the Queen’s speech, as it also failed to appear on the list of planned legislation last June.3

The Royal College of Surgeons also expressed disappointment at the omission and vowed to continue to lobby government for a change in the law. The college said that failing to enact the draft bill would make it much harder for the GMC to enforce the college’s new system of certification, designed to inform the public and employers which surgeons are qualified to undertake cosmetic surgery.

Commenting on the decision Niall Dickson, the GMC’s chief executive, said, “We are deeply disappointed that the government has not taken this opportunity to improve patient safety by modernising the regulation of healthcare professionals.

“The UK government, the devolved administrations and indeed all the main political parties have stated their commitment to reforming our legislation to enable effective, independent regulation. The Mid-Staffordshire inquiry highlighted the vital importance of effective regulation focused on promoting safe, compassionate patient care rather than, as too often in the past, intervening only after patients have been harmed.

“In spite of all we have done to reform our services, the truth is that patients, professionals and the health service as a whole will now be left with a system everyone accepts is outdated and not fit for purpose.”

David Ward, consultant plastic surgeon and vice president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said, “We are very disappointed that the government has further delayed necessary changes to the regulation of health professionals. Without it, it will be difficult for patients and employers to be able to tell a proficient cosmetic surgeon from a professional who has limited recognised experience.”

He added, “The RCS [Royal College of Surgeons] is determined to improve standards of cosmetic surgery for patients in this country, but the GMC needs the power to help enforce them. We will continue undeterred with our proposals for new standards of training for cosmetic surgeons and will lobby the government for this change in the law.”

Although the changes to professional regulation were omitted from the speech, the government did commit to implementing seven day working and the NHS’s five year forward view.

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h2916

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