Health minister John Hutton has outlined plans for licensing UK doctors to make sure they're up to scratch. The regulatory points raised in his consultation document will be tagged onto the Medical Act of 1983.
The new legislation, expected to be place by next year, will require every doctor in the UK to convince the General Medical Council (GMC) that his practice is up to date.
All doctors will have to provide five years' worth of proof that the care they offer patients is up to scratch. If they don't, they won't get a licence and, without that, they won't be able to treat or prescribe for patients. Those who try will be breaking the law. All doctors are expected to have presented their cases by 2005.
This is the GMC's attempt to restore public confidence in a system that reached an all-time low with the Harold Shipman case (the GP who is now in prison for killing at least 15 of his patients). Other proposals in Hutton's document include plans for quicker and simpler disciplinary arrangements, and having non-GMC members in on the panel's hearings (BMJ, 2002; 324: 1235; www.doh.gov.uk/gmcreform).