GMC to reveal masonic links

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Indy Politics

Members of the General Medical Council will be required to declare whether they are freemasons in a move to reassure the public about the fairness of the doctors' ruling body.

Members of the General Medical Council will be required to declare whether they are freemasons in a move to reassure the public about the fairness of the doctors' ruling body.

There has been growing public concern at the failure of the GMC to act more quickly against some failing doctors, leading to unsubstantiated rumours within the Government that freemasonry may have influenced its decisions.

Now, in a move to reassure public opinion, the GMC has decided to require all its 104 members to sign a declaration of private interests which for the first time will include membership of the freemasons.

The Independent on Sunday has learned that prominent doctors' leaders who are freemasons include Dr Sandy Macara, the former head of the BMA, although he told colleagues he had not attended a lodge in 20 years.

GMC sources said they believed one senior member of the GMC was a freemason, and would declare it in the register. The move was welcomed by Dartford Labour MP Dr Howard Stoate, a family doctor, who has been leading a campaign at Westminster to make the GMC more open.

"The public have a right to know whether members of the GMC have declarable interests, and that includes being a freemason," said Dr Stoate.

The register will remain optional for consultants and doctors. Members of the ruling council and heads of departments of the GMC will be advised to make declarations.

The GMC's initiative goes further than that of the Home Office, which has attempted to get the judiciary and the police to declare their membership of the freemasons on a voluntary register.

It will be seen as a further attempt to persuade the Government to allow the GMC to reform its own procedures rather than to use the big stick of legislation.

It follows criticism of the GMC's failure to act more quickly to strike off incompetent or dangerous doctors, including consultant gynaecologist Rodney Ledward and GP Harold Shipman, who was jailed for murdering his patients.

Alan Milburn, the Health Secretary, warned that he was prepared to act, with legislation if necessary, but the GMC appears to have persuaded him to drop that threat for the time being.

The GMC has suggested that it should be brought under Parliamentary scrutiny for the first time by the Commons Select Committee on Health, and it is consulting on moves that could make it easier for patients to have doctors struck off the medical register in future.

"We have got a register of interests. It was voluntary but we are asking council members to declare their interests, and it will be published. We should have all the returns by the end of December," said a GMC source.

Council members were advised in a report by the council that there was considerable public interest in the alleged influence of freemasonry in public life. "It has become apparent that silence on the issue is not sufficient," said the report.

"The Council needs to make clear whether or not freemasonry should be declared. This should not be left to individual members. The aim of the register is not to satisfy curiosity but to support transparency and probity."

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