GMC names freemason members
Wednesday, 4 April, 2001, 14:47 GMT 15:47 UK http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/1256901.stm
General Medical Council members have been forced to reveal whether they are freemasons.
And their details have now been published on a register of interests, which is open to public scrutiny.
There had been accusations that the General Medical Council (GMC) was adversely influenced by freemasonry and that this could be interfering with justice during their conduct cases.
There were even concerns raised that freemason doctors appearing before the GMC might have tried to use their connections to get the cases against them dropped, particularly at the early stages.
But the register, which also includes details of political parties members belong to and any consultancies they work for, has revealed there are only four freemasons within their 104 strong membership.
I was unhappy about one particular case. I was concerned that one component did involve freemasonry
Dr Richard Coleman, former GMC member
The register lists Sir Sandy Macara, the former British Medical Association (BMA) chair; Dr Simon Fradd, a negotiator for the BMA's GPs' committee; Dr Ronald Zeegen, a consultant physician and gastroenterologist and lay member Mr James Campbell Morton as freemasons.
The GMC voted for the register after growing internal and external pressure to include freemasonry in the register of members interests.
Within a few weeks the GMC will also name any of their senior staff executives who are freemasons.
There were concerns that the council could not be considered to be fully transparent without this.
A spokeswoman for the GMC said publishing the register would answer criticisms against them that they were not being open enough.
"We gave an undertaking in the interests of transparency and openness to publish a register of members interests and we have now done so."
Dr Richard Coleman, a GP and ex-GMC member, first raised concerns about freemasonry a number of years ago.
He told BBC News Online that in the past there had been concerns that freemasonry connections could have played a part in influencing the outcome in one particular case.
But Dr Coleman was very clear that he was not referring to any decision made by any of the freemasons named in this register.
He said that by being open and transparent the GMC was distancing itself from any imagined or real criticism.
"I was unhappy about one particular case. I was concerned that one component did involve freemasonry.
"Because it is secret it did not rule out the possibility that there was some bias."
Dr Coleman said Lord Woolf had made it clear that anyone involved in a judicial capacity must declare whether they are freemasons - he said the GMC now complied with this.
GMC member Dr Krishna Korlipara, a GP in Bolton, said publishing the list would show they were transparent and above board.
"I have always been an advocate for openness and transparency and that people should declare anything that could be seen as a conflict of interest.
"I think this is an excellent idea. Now it is all in the open and no body can argue that the members are not acting perfectly honourably," he said.
Fellow GMC member Dr Surendra Kumar, a GP in Widnes, said: "I think in the current climate of transparency it is absolutely vital that one declares one's interests."