Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the GMC and new Chair of IAMRA, looks at what we can learn from medical regulators around the world to raise medical standards and improve patient safety.

Today, more than 400 delegates from over 40 countries are gathering in London for IAMRA 2014.

This conference is a great opportunity to share and discuss ideas for better, more effective medical regulation. To find out more about what patients think about regulation, take a look at IAMRA’s video.

While there are many differences between the nations represented at this conference – different healthcare provision, different systems of medical education and different cultures – what we do share is a commitment to raise medical standards and improve patient safety.

image of doctors in discussion

Although the way we operate and the political and legal frameworks differ, we are all grappling with similar issues. How we can work with the profession and others to raise standards, how we should assess doctors’ competence, and how we manage risks to patients are all challenges faced by every country.

IAMRA is based on the belief that by sharing experiences and perspectives we can learn from each other and thereby improve regulation – both in countries with established regulatory systems and in those that are seeking to develop them, often with quite limited resources.

All this of course is in the context of an increasingly mobile profession – over a third of the doctors on our register qualified outside the UK and the movement of doctors around the world looks set to increase, bringing both challenges and opportunities. Understanding the implications of this and making sure that regulators – both in countries where doctors are coming from and those they are going to – are co-operating effectively with each other will be critical for the safety of patients.

Nor is it just about medical mobility – medical education itself is a global phenomenon and the potential to learn from how it is governed and regulated in different places (as well as the content of the education itself) again offers great opportunities for sharing and learning.

In just about every country doctors are highly respected, and rightly so. But medicine is a high-risk business and the capacity to do good carries with it the capacity to do harm. If it is to be more effective, regulation itself must evolve alongside the rapidly changing world in which doctors work – part of that will involve the theme of this week’s conference – how we can move to a smarter form of regulation, which can evaluate risk and thereby reduce harm to patients.

The theme of IAMRA 2014 is Medical Regulation – Evaluating risk and reducing harm to patients.