Leading article: Professionals in need of a check-up

Share
Related Topics

Doctors, especially family doctors, remain one of the most respected groups of professionals in Britain. If, as sometimes happens, however, the patient's experience of a doctor falls short, the results of a recent survey offer part of an explanation. A new generation of GPs and hospital doctors may have qualified since the old-style Dr Finlays, but habits of defensive clannishness linger.

According to a study reported by the British Medical Journal, one in five UK doctors said they had direct experience of an incompetent or poorly performing colleague in the past three years. And while three-quarters of them reported their concerns, one in three of those who did not said this was because they feared retribution. The consequence is that incompetence is allowed to continue.

There is a remedy for this: regular checks to re-validate doctors' qualifications of the kind that exist in the US. As things stand, a doctor here can practise for 40 years after qualifying, with no checks through the whole of that time.

It is 10 years since the General Medical Council first advanced proposals for doctors to undergo five-yearly checks – proposals made in the wake of the Bristol heart surgery scandal of the 1990s and the conviction of Dr Harold Shipman for multiple killings. It is unfortunate that it took such egregious cases to prompt such proposals in the first place; unfortunate, too, that the welcome lack of comparable scandals in recent years to some extent allowed the impetus for re-validation to fade. The much greater reason why such an eminently necessary measure has still not been introduced, however, is the dogged resistance of the doctors themselves, as represented by the BMA.

The extent of their hostility emerges clearly in the BMJ survey, which showed that barely a quarter of UK doctors surveyed said they supported periodic competence checks, compared with half of their counterparts in the US, where "re-certification" already exists. As of last year, there is, finally, a timetable for regular re-validation checks to become mandatory in the UK before the end of 2012. There can be no excuses for any further delay.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Scrum Master (Agile, Java, team recruitment)

£45000 - £60000 Per Annum + benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Scrum M...

Junior Asset Manager

£25000 - £35000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Junior As...

Investment Analyst

£33000 - £40000 Per Annum Discretionary profit share: The Green Recruitment Co...

Project Coordinator

£20000 - £30000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Project C...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Jennifer Aniston has said it's 'not fair' to place the pressure of motherhood on women  

Like Jennifer Aniston, I am no less of a woman because I am childless

Rachael Lloyd
 

i Editor's Letter: The persistence of a privately educated elite

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?