BMA annual meeting: GMC should be funded by public not doctors, says BMA

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: (Published 22 June 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i3484
  1. Abi Rimmer
  1. BMJ Careers

The BMA has called for the General Medical Council to be funded from the public purse rather than by doctors.

Delegates at the BMA’s annual representatives meeting in Belfast on Tuesday 21 June voted in favour of a motion calling for the association to “support a move to shift funding” to the public.

Proposing the motion, Rajiv Kumar, from the BMA’s Staff Associate Specialists and Specialty Doctors Committee, pointed out that most complaints received by the GMC were made by patients.

“These [complaints] are the least likely to go to a formal hearing, but they do result in devastation and even deaths for the doctors involved,” Kumar said. “The GMC judges us guilty until proven innocent. What a travesty,” he added.

“Doctors are regularly suspended, leading to feelings of isolation, anxiety, depression, and suicide. Who on earth gains from these misjudged actions of the GMC?” he asked. “In light of all this, should there not be a rethink of GMC funding?”

He argued that the GMC’s remit covered patient safety, which should be funded by the public, and education and training, which students and universities should fund.

“I will pay for registration. But why [pay for] annual retention? Why do I pay £440 just to have someone carry over my name? [In respect of] professional behaviour, the BMA and my royal college guides me,” Kumar said.

Speaking against the motion, the GP Kambiz Boomla warned that giving up the responsibility of funding the GMC could affect doctors’ professionalism. “I feel that passing this motion and absolving ourselves from paying for our own regulator would be a step in the wrong direction and one we should be cautious about.”

Mark Porter, chair of the BMA council, also warned against changing the way the GMC was funded, and he said that the GMC was aware of its responsibility towards doctors. “If we advocate for the moving of the responsibility for paying for the GMC . . . we will feel even more disconnected from the GMC and even more oppressed by them,” he warned.

“It will feel good in some senses, because we’ll no longer be paying for it, and obviously when doctors pay £110 a quarter it feels somewhat direct, but [if funding is moved] we will probably feel that they are against us even more,” Porter said.

He warned that supporting the vote “may result in long term changes that doctors may well not thank us for.”

Commenting on the BMA’s motion, Niall Dickson, the GMC’s chief executive, said, “The BMA is right that our job is to protect patients and to ensure standards of medical practice and medical education. But we believe the fact that we are not funded by the state, and are accountable to the UK parliament, not to government ministers, is important, especially as we operate in systems that are all funded and controlled by governments.

“It is vital that we work closely with the profession and with individual doctors to support clinical leadership and engagement, protect doctors in training, and promote high standards of practice. We are listening, and we know there is more we can and want to do to support doctors. However, not being reliant on government money is critical to our role as an independent regulator and helps to maintain the high level of trust in the medical professions.”

What do doctors pay to the GMC?

  • Fee to register with the GMC: £200

  • Annual retention fee with licence to practice: £425 a year

  • Fees for specialist or GP registration applications: £1600

  • There is an extra charge for paying fees quarterly, and doctors may be able to claim tax relief on fees

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