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GMC to tighten up conflict of interest rules

Doctors who accept excessive gifts from pharma firms could be struck off medical register

Doctors will be warned that they could be struck off the medical register if they accept excessive gifts or incentives from pharmaceutical companies, under revised guidance from the medical profession regulator, the General Medical Council (GMC).

The GMC is currently consulting on a revised version of its main guidance document, Good Medical Practice, which is due to be issued in November. Revised rules on conflicts of interest will not only make it clear that the GMC can wield the axe on doctors it deems to have made a serious departure from good medical practice by accepting bribes, but will also implore doctors to blow the whistle on colleagues they suspect have done so.

A GMC spokeswoman told PMLive that the addition of supplementary guidance sets out situations where doctors could find themselves in a conflict of interest.

ìAny serious departure or persistent failure to meet GMC standards could put a doctor's registration at risk,î she said. ìEach case will be dealt with on an individual basis but the GMC does have the ability to remove a doctor's registration or restrict it.î

She added that doctors had a responsibility to alert the GMC if they believed that the behaviour of a colleague was putting them or their patients at risk.

However, the GMC denied that the revisions were a reaction to recent high profile cases such as when executives at Abbott Laboratories entertained a hospital consultant at a lap-dancing club.

ìWe started consulting on our revision of Good Medical Practice last year,î said the GMC spokeswoman. ìThis has been a long ongoing review and it would be wrong to say it was a reaction to recent events.î

The consultation period for the supplementary guidance, which also establishes parameters for relationships with patients, closes on 24 July.

The GMC said it receives around 5,000 complaints a year but stressed that not all of these concerned doctors and many were dealt with at a local level. There are currently around 240,000 doctors on the UK medical register.

30th September 2008

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