Life bans for criminal or bad doctors came a step closer last week with a government consultation document proposing a radical shake-up of the way the General Medical Council works.

It wants to give the GMC the power to str ike doctors off the reg ister permanently in severe cases. Ministers have also backed: an increased period of minimum erasure for all doctors; the power to stop doctors applying to go back on the register after two unsuccessful attempts, and the power to suspend doctors immediately if they are accused of, or charged with, serious crimes.

In the wake of the Shipman murders, ministers want to tighten regulation of the medical profession. Doctors who are allowed back on the register will have to pass a formal assessment of their fitness to practise.

Cases would be heard faster and more lay members would be involved in judging accused doctors. The GMC would be forced to share information about struck-off doctors with trusts and health authorities.

GMC president Sir Donald Irvine welcomed the plans, saying they would allow the GMC to put its own proposals into practice. The document was 'an important first step in the overhaul' of regulation.

Modernising Medical Regulation.