Get practising docs involved in disciplinary tribunals

The aims of professional regulation are threefold: protecting the public, upholding standards and supporting the profession.

In the case of the Singapore Medical Council (SMC), it is encouraging to note that the authorities have taken the step of actively engaging the profession after the furore over a number of recent questionable judgments (Panel eyes having sitting judge for medical watchdog's cases, May 22).

The suggestion of having a sitting judge to oversee disciplinary hearings should be a positive step - hopefully, judicial reasoning will allow a level of rationality, transparency and consistency that has seemingly been lacking.

I would suggest, however, that the idea of having a permanent team of senior retired doctors judging disciplinary cases is unwise and largely inappropriate. While senior retired doctors may hold a wealth of collective wisdom from their clinical experience, disciplinary hearings demand a different skill set.

Britain's Professional Standards Authority, which oversees regulation of the country's professional bodies such as the General Medical Council, has concluded that systemic factors such as work culture and environmental stressors contribute significantly to incidents resulting in complaints.

Retired doctors are not familiar with the stresses and human factors encountered in current clinical practice and will not be suited to the role of adjudication in disciplinary hearings.

An alternative that may be worthy of consideration here is for the SMC to appoint actively practising doctors of the appropriate discipline (according to the cases under review) to disciplinary tribunals on a rotational basis. Doctors may perhaps be persuaded to participate in such duties with the award of a suitable quantum of Continuous Professional Education points and other incentives.

Sitoh Yih Yiow (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2019, with the headline 'Get practising docs involved in disciplinary tribunals'. Print Edition | Subscribe