Press Round-Up: Regulatory and Professional Discipline Summer 2019

1 August 2019

A Regulatory press round-up for Summer 2019.

General Medical Council (GMC)

  • The GMC commissioned a report by Dr Doyin Atewologun and Roger Kline to undertake research regarding the disparity in referral rates in relation to BAME doctors.  The report found that:
    • some doctors did not have adequate inductions or sufficient support in transitioning to new social, cultural and professional environments;
    • where doctors were from a different ethnic group to their manager, this caused issues in some cases with the honesty, timeliness and effectiveness of feedback;
    • some doctors were in isolated roles due to their working patterns resulting in a lack of exposure to experiences, mentors and resources. As a result of which, there was difficulty in doctors feeling able to approach their leaders for advice and support.

The recommendations of the report focused on four key areas: support, working environments, inclusive leadership and delivery. The recommendations made include improving support for doctors new to the UK or the NHS or who had a role which was likely to isolate them, addressing the systemic issues preventing a focus on learning when there is an error, consistency in positive and inclusive leadership across the NHS and establishing UK-wide mechanisms for delivering the recommendations. It was highlighted that there are a range of interlinked factors with regards to certain groups of doctors being disproportionately referred for fitness to practise issues.

The hope is for the recommendations made in the report to encourage implementation of change to ensure that all doctors are supported and treated fairly.

  • The GMC has confirmed that the qualifications of all licensed doctors who joined the register using the ‘Commonwealth route’ which was subsequently abolished, have been checked. The checks confirmed that all 3,117 doctors had not used fraudulent documents to gain registration following the exceptional case of Zholia Alemi who had been found to have joined the register using fraudulent documents in 1995.

 

General Dental Council (GDC)

  • The GDC is seeking views on a proposed pilot of changes to timescales for the Rule 4 process whereby Registrants and their representatives have the opportunity to request an extension to prepare their observations under certain circumstances. The pilot stems from concerns raised regarding the tight timescales for observations to be provided to the regulator.

The consultation is open and can be accessed via: here. The deadline for response is 7 September 2019.

 

Bar Standards Board (BSB)

  • On 18 July 2019, the BSB updated its policy on the publication of disciplinary findings for professional misconduct. The updated policy will mean that publication of such findings can be done by all means including on the Bar Register and on request. The purpose of this update is to ensure compliance with data protection legislation and striking an appropriate balance between public protection and the impact of such publication on the profession. The new policy will come into effect on 15 September 2019. The revised lengths of time for which disciplinary findings will be put in the public domain can be gleaned here.
  • The Director General of the BSB, Dr Vanessa Davies, published a blog on 18 June 2019 confirming that there will now be four routes to qualification and the new Bar qualification rules have been launched. Providers of qualification will have the option of whether to offer vocational training in one part or split the training into two parts to be undertaken separately. Furthermore, there will be the option to combine the academic and vocational parts into an integrated course as well as apprenticeship routes into becoming a barrister. The new courses are expected to begin from September 2020.

 

General Optical Council

  • The General Optical Council held a roundtable event for optical business registrants in order to share insights regarding fitness to practise. During the event the regulator shared data which highlighted that the most common complaints received in the past three years related to businesses not having the correct procedures in place or failing to apply their procedures appropriately; poor handling of complaints and instances where directors of optical businesses had failed to declare cautions/convictions.

 

Professional Standards Authority (PSA)

  • The PSA has welcomed the government’s response to the consultation on reform of professional regulation, although the PSA has reflected that it does not consider the proposals to be as radical as are needed. The response has supported changes which the PSA have previously called for, including:
    • A less adversarial fitness to practise system with greater focus on consensual disposal and remediation;
    • Greater cooperation between regulators to tackle harm; and
    • A consistent risk-based approach for deciding on the most appropriate form of assurance for health and care occupations.

The government’s proposals also include increased flexibility for regulators to make and amend their own rules, although the PSA has highlighted that they consider there should be a role for it to oversee any such rule-changes to ensure a consistent approach.

  • On 11 June 2019, the PSA published two reports from the Williams Review into gross negligence manslaughter in healthcare. The two reports are the result of the Department for Health and Social Care commissioning the advice from the PSA. The Williams Review was set up following the case of Dr Bawa-Garba. The first report, ‘Developing a methodology to assess the consistency of fitness to practise outcomes’, can be here.  

    The second report, ‘How is public confidence maintained when fitness to practise decisions are made?’ can be found here. This report highlighted that there is no agreed definition of ‘public confidence’ amongst regulators or the types of behaviour or regulatory action which may impact upon it in the context of health professional regulation. Further, the public have differing views with regards to different professions.

 

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