ARM2024 EBP Phil Banfield Speech 04

BMA takes legal action over MAPs

Life at Work
By Peter Blackburn

Judicial review claim argues term ‘medical professionals’ reserved for qualified doctors

The BMA has launched legal action against the GMC in a bid to stop the ‘dangerous blurring of the lines’ between highly skilled and trained doctors and the MAPs (medical associate professions).

Speaking at the BMA annual representative meeting, council chair Phil Banfield (pictured above) said the association would not stand for the Government and NHS leadership ‘eroding’ the profession any further.

It comes in the wake of recent legislation which will see the GMC becoming the regulator of PAs (physician associates) and AAs (anaesthesia associates) from December 2024.

The BMA has argued physician and anaesthesia associates – who complete a two-year course rather than a five-year medical degree – need regulating, but that the GMC is not the right organisation to do this.

The GMC has been using the term ‘medical professionals’ in its materials to describe all of its future registrants – both doctors and associates. This includes in Good Medical Practice, the key GMC guidance document for doctors, defining the standards of care and behaviour that are expected, which is used as a reference to determine fitness to practise.

Concerted effort

The BMA is now launching a judicial review claim against the GMC over its use of this term, which the association says should only ever be used to refer to qualified doctors.

Alongside the BMA, Anaesthetists United, an independent group of grassroots anaesthetists, is planning separate but complementary legal action, which relates to the lack of any national regulation of scope of practice for PAs and AAs, a vital issue which the GMC has studiously avoided. The BMA is liaising with Anaesthetists United about this and ‘offers it whole-hearted support’.

Professor Banfield said: ‘PAs are not doctors, and we have seen the tragic consequences of what happens when this is not made clear to patients. Everyone has the right to know who the healthcare professional they are seeing is and what they are qualified to do – and crucially, not to do.

‘Doctors are “the medical profession”. To describe any other staff as medical professionals not only undermines doctors and the rigorous training journey they have been on, but also confuses patients, who rightly associate the two terms as one and the same.

Public protection

‘The central and solemn responsibility of the GMC is to protect the public from those who are not registered qualified doctors, pretending to be doctors. It has become increasingly clear that broadening the term “medical professionals” to include those without medical degrees has had the effect of making this task far harder, when recent experience has now shown that this represents a dangerous blurring of this critical distinction.’

Richard Marks, co-founder of Anaesthetists United, said: ‘Doctors and their patients are united over their opposition to the outgoing Government’s plans for replacing doctors with associates. Taking legal action seems to be the only way forward.’

Find out more about MAPs