Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

Observations Body Politic

A discriminating judgment

BMJ 2008; 337 doi: (Published 14 July 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;337:a809

Rapid Response:

GMC Annual Registration Fee: Proposed end to age related exemption. Some comments from the Medical Ethics Alliance

The General Medical Council (GMC) have recently received advice from
a leading Counsel who is of the opinion that a longstanding arrangement,
whereby doctors who have reached retiring age are exempt from paying an
annual registration fee to the GMC, is unlawful and contravenes provisions
contained in the European Equality (Age) Regulations 2006.

There was a time when women doctors were allowed to retire at the age
of 60 and men at the age of 65. However women doctors who retired early or
at the age of 60 were required to pay the annual registration fee until
they reached 65. This anomaly was drawn to the attention of the GMC
several years ago, but nothing was done about it. This was a form of age
and sex discrimination that worked against women doctors.

The current plans to make all retired doctors pay an annual
registration fee ad infinitum if they wish to remain on the medical
register seem a bizarre result of an European Regulation that is,
presumably, intended to prevent age discrimination!

Retired doctors who were previously exempt from paying a registration
fee are now required to pay up by November 1st 2008 or be struck off for
administrative reasons. Those who wish to pay by Direct Debit, or who wish
to be considered for a low- income discount in the annual retention fee,
should have returned the necessary forms to the GMC by September 4th 2008.
Those who apply for voluntary erasure should also have returned the forms
by September 4th. This short response time may suit the GMC but it could
prove awkward for retired doctors who happen to be on holiday in August!

The proposed reduction in annual retention fee for doctors on a low
income is to be welcomed, but the payment due should be proportional to
their income from medical work undertaken in retirement. All other sources
of income are a matter for the Inland Revenue and not the General Medical

Very few retired doctors practise clinical medicine, but some
continue to make significant contributions to the profession in retirement
for little or no remuneration.
Doctors who are professionally inactive in retirement should not have to
pay an annual retention fee.

Many of the questions that doctors are required to answer when
seeking voluntary erasure from the medical register are totally
inappropriate, and some will give offence to any self-respecting doctor at
the end of an unblemished career. The GMC should reserve their
international criminal record check approach for overseas doctors seeking
registration in the UK. Doctors reaching retirement age at the end of
their careers should be allowed to withdraw from clinical practice with

From Dr A.Cole Chairman and Dr G.M.Craig. Vice Chairman

Submitted to the BMJ on behalf of the Medical Ethics Alliance.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

10 September 2008
A Cole
G M Craig, Vice Chairman
Medical Ethics Alliance