Prime Minister Gordon Brown yesterday unveiled plans for a new Health and Social Care Bill, aimed at creating “a stronger health and social care regulator,” and ensure “improved access, clean and safe services and high quality care.”

Under the plans, a new watchdog, to be crowned Ofcare, would be born next year to take over from existing bodies the existing Healthcare Commission, the Mental Health Act Commission and the Commission for Social Care Inspection, in a drive to knit regulation closer together and slash costs, a spokesperson for the Department of Health confirmed to PharmaTimes UK News.

In addition, the new bill put forward the use of a civil as opposed to criminal standard of proof in disciplinary cases, a move that the British Medical Association strongly disagrees with.

“The BMA’s members have made it very clear that they are against using a balance of probabilities – the civil standard of proof – to take away a doctor’s livelihood, said BMA Chairman, Dr Hamish Meldrum. “Nothing less than the criminal standard of proof – beyond reasonable doubt – is acceptable. This does not jeopardise patient safety but maintains a system in which both the public and the profession can have confidence that fairness and justice will be delivered,” he stressed.

Named representative

The bill also proposes a named person in every workplace to handle cases of poor professional performance. But, again, this idea was rejected by Dr Meldrum. “On the surface this sounds very similar to the idea of [Greater Medical Council] affiliates put forward in the Chief Medical Officer’s paper on medical regulation. We pointed out at the time that this was an unworkable idea and we suggested instead a regional network, rather than an employer-based network, to improve clinical governance.”

The government’s proposals for medical regulation will be discussed by the BMA shortly but, in the meantime, Dr Meldrum makes it clear that if any new system is to work then it must have the confidence of the doctors being regulated. “Our members will strongly oppose any proposal to use a lesser standard of proof when their whole career is on the line,” he warned.