Leading Article: Blowing the medical whistle
Tuesday 08 August 1995
This is a bit unfair. It was, after all, under Mrs Bottomley's aegis that the Chief Medical Officer was asked to chair a committee looking into identifying incompetent doctors. It is that committee's recommendations that Mr Dorrell is implementing. Mrs Bottomley also presided over the drafting of the Medical (Professional Performance) Bill which enables the General Medical Council to investigate cases of seriously deficient performance on the part of doctors. At the moment the GMC is restricted to ruling on cases of professional misconduct.
An essential element to the new package is the requirement that doctors blow the whistle on colleagues who are under-performing. Often it is only other doctors who will have the expertise, or who will be in a position to judge, when there is incompetence. There are problems here. If doctors believe their colleagues face dismissal or peremptory action, they are much less likely to tell what they know. So it is vital that the accent should be on improving performance rather than imposing sanctions. Just because hospital managers become aware of a problem does not of itself solve it. Some managers are notoriously bad at dealing with poor performance. Even if doctors complain to management about a colleague, there is no guarantee that managers will act.
Which raises an interesting dilemma. Many trusts enjoin their staff not to leak information to the outside world - for a mixture of commercial and administrative reasons. Staff are often asked to sign "gagging clauses" in their contracts. This sits oddly with the fact that doctors will now be asked to inform on colleagues. Doctors concerned at management inaction over incompetence by other doctors, should be indemnified against disciplinary action if they decide to go public.
Many will also worry about whether the GMC is the right body to preside over cases of professional incompetence. After all, as the profession's own internal regulator, it can hardly be said to be independent - despite increases in its lay membership. Its primary interest is in safeguarding the medical profession rather than achieving the optimum result for patients.
Before we rush to set up OffDoc, however, we ought to see how well this self-regulation works in practice. There are good practical reasons for wanting to avoid the setting up of a professional inspectorate into medical practice - not least because of the danger that such a body would quickly become out of touch with the latest medical and surgical techniques. The GMC itself has strong motives for wanting to convince us that self- regulation will work for doctors, where it has manifestly failed for the legal profession. Nevertheless it must know that, from now on, it is on trial.
- 2 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 3 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 4 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 5 Ian Brady: Moors murderer announces his support for Ukip and the SNP
Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
Russian hack of President Obama's emails worse than previously admitted
Ian Brady: Moors murderer announces his support for Ukip and the SNP
UK weather: Britain braced for snow to replace sun as arctic air mass moves in
Nepal earthquake: US Pastor Tony Miano sparks outcry by suggesting Nepalis should not rebuild their 'pagan shrines'
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...
£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...