I wonder if I might clarify the story behind the recruitment of our new Chief Executive, Charlie Massey? (Medicine Balls, Sept 16)
I chaired the appointments panel and I am confident the process we used was rigorous and produced a good result. Charlie Massey joins us from a long career in the civil service – he has worked for Labour, Coalition and Conservative ministers – the idea that a senior civil servant somehow reflects the views of a particular Minister or administration misunderstands how the civil service works. Our current chief executive’s predecessor was also a civil servant.
The GMC’s Chief Executive’s responsibility is to lead in delivering our strategy, which is set by the organisation’s Council, not by Government. In doing this he will be accountable to me and the other members of Council – half of whom are doctors. Our independence from government remains vital and we will continue to exercise that independence in the years ahead.
The GMC does not represent doctors or employers and has no role in contracts, manpower planning or determining health service policy. But we are legally responsible for setting and enforcing professional standards and for the quality of education doctors and medical students receive. In that role we safeguard training quality, and intervene if a training environment is not suitable. If we were to remove trainees from a site, it would be to continue their training in a better training environment elsewhere, and to protect their education and careers, and their patients. The GMC has no power to remove a doctor from training.
As for the current dispute with the government in England, we have no role in contract negotiations or in doctors’ terms and conditions. We certainly recognise the frustration and alienation felt by many doctors in training but we are deeply concerned that prolonged action will harm patients. We are also clear that taking action with the aim of achieving a hypothetical and uncertain benefit for a future patient cannot justify a doctor’s knowingly harming an actual patient today. We issued our guidance to help doctors make decisions in difficult and trying circumstances. We did not, nor will we, side with either the BMA or the employers or the government in this contractual dispute.
Prof Terence Stephenson
Chair, General Medical Council