Doctors have been the first professionals in the health sector to have a licence to practise imposed on them, but it has been a slow and chequered process.
The legislation was approved by parliament only last month, 11 years after first being proposed by the General Medical Council in 1998. However, the proposals underwent various changes following the conviction of GP and multiple killer Harold Shipman in 2000 and criticism of the GMC’s proposals in 2004 by Dame Janet Smith, the head of the Shipman Inquiry.
It is now this licence, and not a doctor’s registration with the GMC, that provides the legal entitlement to practise medicine in the UK. The cost to individual practitioners has been broadly similar to the cost of annual registration to the GMC, at £410.
The licence has been controversial among doctors because it heralds the first step of a system of “revalidation”, whereby all doctors holding a licence to practise will have to renew it every five years to prove their fitness to practise.
However, there are still, so far, no firm dates on when the first doctors will undergo this revalidation process and still no estimates of how much the system will cost to operate.
Other health professions are also due to follow suit, although many will be revalidated by their employers rather than their registering body.