Your right to know more about the doctors who treat you

Every patient will have the right to see doctors’ disciplinary and performance records on the internet under a sweeping review of medical accountability to be announced today, reports The Times. "The move is also likely to spell the end of the General Medical Council’s historic right to judge doctors after a series of failures culminating in the Harold Shipman case. "

While the GMC will continue to maintain the register of doctors, it stands to lose its power to strike off doctors. Instead a new independent tribunal will assume that role. One source was quoted as saying: “Knowledge is power and the knowledge is going to go to patients. They are demanding to know more about their own health and more about the doctors who treat them.”

The review is being carried out by Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer, who will consider whether “spent convictions” should remain on a doctor’s public record after they have retrained or served a period of suspension. This is bound to alarm doctors who face having the details of allegations about their behaviour made public for the first time.

The British Medical Association is opposed to such measures being implemented: “There are potentially human rights issues in this. We want the public to be as fully informed as possible. But we have to be fair to doctors as well and not put them in a category that is totally different to anyone else in society. We would have grave concerns about any unfounded or unproven allegations being made available.”

One of the most difficult tasks for Donaldson will be to decide which information can be made public under the Freedom of Information Act, the Data Protection Act, or modified by the Human Rights Act.

Patients win right to see GPs' records (The Times, 27 January 2005)