What Does The General Medical Council Case Mean For The Future?

June 26, 1998

(All changed, changed utterly. British medicine will be transformed by the Bristol case)

In an editorial in this week's BMJ, Dr Richard Smith, Editor, says that the Bristol case will probably prove much more important to the future of health care in Britain than the reforms suggested in the white papers: "...the Bristol case is a once in a lifetime drama that has held the attention of doctors and patients in a way that a white paper can never hope to match."

Dr Smith discusses the issues raised by the Bristol case, with the future of the doctor-patient relationship at the core of his discussion. He says that Frank Dobson was wrong to say that all three of the doctors involved in the case should have been struck off and wonders how the Secretary of State for Health will now proceed with the concept of self-regulation within the medical profession. The author believes that the Government will not attempt an overhaul of the General Medical Council as this would "miss the point". He believes that the Royal Colleges and postgraduate deans have a much stronger everyday influence on the practice of doctors and that they must recognise their role in self regulation.

Dr Smith concludes that the failure of doctors' organisations to implement much better mechanisms for ensuring high quality of care might lead to the micromanagement of doctors that is routine in the United States.


Jill Shepherd, Press Office, BMJ, BMA House, Tavistock Square, London jshepher@bma.org.uk


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