Much has been made in the past few days of the news that doctors are no longer going to be allowed to regulate themselves in light of the Harold Shipman inquiry. Apparently, the power of governance is to be moved away from the General Medical Council and into the hands of the NHS and a so-called independent authority.

For me the proposal has raised a number of concerns. Firstly, it is very unlikely that the doctors are going to take this lying down, what are they going to want in return?

Secondly, if the NHS is going to be involved in the policing of doctor’s clinical competence does this really inspire confidence?

And thirdly, if there is going to be an independent organisation established how many seats/places/appointments will the doctors insist be filled by doctors to …ensure appropriate peer review… …monitor clinical competence… or other such weasel words. I am willing to bet that doctors will make up the majority of representatives on theses governing bodies or they will seek regulatory capture by some other means.

However, the real issue here is that the proposals made by Liam Donaldson will not improve the care given by doctors to patients. Nor will it improve public confidence in the medical profession.

The time has come for us to think more imaginatively about how we want our doctors trained and regulated. Why should government and the NHS be involved at all? Do we need the government to tell us which washing machine or car is likely to be more reliable or give us better service? No, a multitude of consumer magazines, websites and television programmes are available to help us with our choice. We talk to our friends and family to canvas their opinion and experiences and we make our decisions not based on an in-depth or expert knowledge of the subject but with an informed choice from the trusted bands available in the market.

Why should our choice of doctor be any different?

Isn’t it about time the Government stopped treating the public like children who are unable to look after themselves and started realising that there is a population of consumers who are willing and able to take responsibility for their own health and healthcare decisions?

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