Barry Lewis, Tim Hutchfull and Jan Krir represented the BCA at the meeting with Peter Dixon and Margaret Coates. and the other chiropractic associations
This is what was reported in the June issue of BCA newsletter "In Touch" By Barry Lewis President of the BCA.
Peter Dixon opened the meeting by addressing issues raised in a letter from the MCA and used these points as the focus of the discussion.
According to Barry Lewis they were
Promoting the profession: the MCA were critical in their letter of the GCC’s record on promotion. Margaret Coats stated that the GCC had always considered this to mean "raising the awareness of chiropractic within the NHS and with other regulatory bodies." It is therefore neither "marketing" nor is it "PR". The GCC clearly considers those activities to be the "responsibilities of the professional associations for a variety of reasons including cost and expertise and has no wish to duplicate efforts. I acknowledged this explanation and commented that the BCA has a robust PR and marketing initiative in place for its members.
Protecting the public and disciplining chiropractors: I think it fair to say that there is also considerable frustration on the part of the professional associations with this issue. However, many of the points raised and suggestions offered were clearly" non starters" for the GCC – mainly because they go against the law and the statutory requirements of any regulatory body. Examples were, a screening system with "warnings" and serious cases to go to PCC; a mediation service for patients and practitioners; etc. The BCA has raised these issues on a number of occasions and the same answers were given. Ms Coats also pointed out that the General Medical Council had tried several of these things and been severely reprimanded by the Department of Health as not being seen as adequately protecting the public,
The MCA had proposed in their letter that the GCC should deal with complaints within six months. This was met by a statement from the GCC that they have averaged five months to process a case in the last 20 cases. Of the three that ran over six months, all had been with the agreement of the practitioner.
Protecting diversity and uniting the profession: The MCA had highlighted the need for the diversity of the profession to be maintained, and commented that the GCC "by taking no overt action to curtail the excesses of the BCA, we believe the GCC has been instrumental in allowing discord to be heightened". Exactly what this has to do with the GCC I do not know. It was generally agreed by the other three association representatives that – with no defined scope – there is plenty of diversity within the profession.
Open, transparent and apolitical: The MCA highlighted the results of the survey which indicated that 74% of the respondents did not believe the workings of the GCC to be open and transparent. Peter Dixon took exception to this statement and noted that there is plenty of requirement in law and their regulation to ensure that the GCC is impartial and transparent. He explained the requirement of "closed" sessions of the GCC by stating that some issues were confidential
Calling for independent educationalists: The MCA believe that the perceived need for independent educationalists goes" to the heart of the current crisis in the chiropractic profession" . They clearly feel aggrieved that their course is continually put down by those from other institutions who sit in judgement on any accreditation panel. Ms Coats explained that it would be unheard of to have lay educationalists on an accreditation panel – and even more so considering that chiropractic education is a specialised subject and one would not find better qualified people other than from within a chiropractic institution. The MCA quoted the General Osteopathic Council as a group who use outsiders – Ms. Coats stated ,that accreditation visits (and many other functions) are carried out within the budget allowed for by the £1,000 per annum registration fee – whereas others may feel the need through cost, lack of expertise or manpower, to contract them out.
Registration fee: There was general agreement that – while £1000 might seem a lot of money – it was probably necessary in order for the regulatory body to run efficiently. Peter Dixon pointed out that (unlike practitioners’ fees which rise regularly) there had been no increases in the registration fee since its inception.. He also pointed out that the fee is set by the Chiropractors Act and an amendment would be required for any reduction. (or increase) to occur .
Confidence in the GCC: The MCA highlighted the fact that over 77% of the respondents to the questionnaire do not have confidence in the GCC to regulate the chiropractic profession. In discussion on this issue, there not a great deal of support for the MCA stance.
However, the GCC clearly has a problem with the profession insofar as to the profession’s perceptions of it. They are going to have to do some serious work to reverse those perceptions.
Overall, this was a quite useful exercise and a number of good suggestions came out of it. One of the best was from Tim Hutchful who suggested that the GCC had a perception problem which revolved around their inability to get the ‘message’ out to the profession. He suggested that they have a wider range of methods of dissemination of information – utilizing their website and more attractive publications.
The Bankside Law Survey was the final topic of discussion.
All those present denied any responsibility or involvement of their association in constructing the survey. As it claims to be “pan association” Peter Dixon noted that the survey was probably conducted by a dissatisfied group (presumably of chiropractors) who were not representative of the profession. The MCA representatives were supportive of the survey and considered their results to be valid – the UCA had some support for it, and the SCA commented that much was left not asked.