Medical defence specialist MDDUS has today called for improvements to the way doctors and dentists are regulated to protect them from open-ended and damaging investigations.
Chris Kenny, the chief executive of MDDUS, said the UK Government’s planned review of health regulators was a golden opportunity to introduce reforms that will significantly reduce stress on health professionals and ensure patients’ rights are safeguarded.
And in a letter to ministers, he warned that ducking the opportunity will only serve to increase the pressure on an already highly stressed NHS workforce as we exit the pandemic and attempt to build back better.
MDDUS is a mutual organisation representing more than 50,000 health professionals across the UK. In a recent survey of its members, it found that 45% are more stressed now than they were during the first wave of the pandemic, while 51% are tempted to quit the NHS or retire early.
Mr Kenny said: “Reforms to the regulators’ working practices are vital because too many doctors and dentists face the stress of a regulatory investigation, only for it to close without a finding of impairment – an unsatisfactory situation for them and their patients.”
Ministers intend to use a new Health and Social Care Bill to be able to reduce or reconfigure the number of professional health regulators. The current White Paper does not include explicit provision for reform of the working practices of the UK’s nine health professional regulators, such as the GMC.
Mr Kenny said: “The absence of regulatory reform in the White Paper was a missed opportunity. That’s why we are calling on ministers to use their upcoming consultation on reform of the health professional regulators to address these long-overdue issues with the way doctors and dentists are investigated.
“These need to be progressed in tandem with any further development of the professional regulatory framework. To do this in a piecemeal fashion will only exacerbate existing divisions and concerns about how fit for purpose the current regulatory arrangements are.”
MDDUS has today written to health minister Jo Churchill MP urging her to consider three urgent reforms:
• Removing the GMC’s right to appeal decisions of the Medical Practitioner Tribunal Service (MPTS)
• Introducing regulatory powers for the GMC in relation to Physician Associates and Anaesthesia Associates, and
• Making provision for the registration of dentists trained in the EEA, as the current exemptions for European dentists entering the UK register automatically expires at the end of 2022
Mr Kenny added: “We believe that focussing on the institutional structure of regulators will severely delay, or at worst prevent, the improved outcomes, reduced bureaucracy and better performance that we all seek.”