The country's Chief Medical Officer has praised the General Medical Council (GMC) after it introduced a new rule that says medics must have an official licence before they can practise.
The changes, which took place this week, mean that a doctor must register with the GMC and be granted a licence if they are to practise in the UK.
Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson said: "I welcome the introduction of the licence to practise by the GMC. I congratulate the GMC on its successful communication with the profession about this important change."
Doctors with a licence will be permitted to write prescriptions, sign death certificates and exercise a wide range of legal "privileges".
Professor Peter Rubin, Chair of the GMC said: "The successful start to licensing is a major milestone towards the introduction of revalidation, a new process by which doctors will have to regularly demonstrate to the GMC that they remain up-to-date and fit to practise in the job they do."
Employers must ensure that doctors have a licence to practise if their work requires them to do so.
Copyright © Press Association 2009
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"Modern doctors are better described as 'government pharmacologists'. The title 'doctor' includes the function of learning and teaching. Difficult to teach even common things if you don't know what you are doing and don't understand the purpose of, for example, checking the blood pressure. Call them modern licensed practitioners if you must. Revalidate them until they can spell the names of every drug in the Pharmacopeia backwards. But whether these people are worthy of the title 'doctor' remains debatable" – Dr Liz Miller, London
"I was erased from the medical register for helping drug addicts (as have scores of other doctors). I was deemed a danger to the public. Last week a 43-year-old friend died after developing sudden onset breathlessness and was told in a 4* casualty department he had a chest infection and was sent home with antibiotics. He was found dead the next morning. That's what I call being a danger to the public. When licences can be dished out on a whim of a politically biased organisation such as the GMC I do not feel confident they can properly validate a profession. A licence is fine but I don't think it will be entirely based on clinical competence. Of my former drug-addict patients, a staggering one in 10 were dead within two years of the GMC decision. I can be fairly confident the GMC would withold licences if the face doesn't fit" – Dr Adrian Garfoot, London