Addressing the BMA annual representative meeting in Brighton, public health consultant Tamasin Knight emphasised that GMC investigations wreaked havoc with doctors’ professional and personal lives, and in some tragic cases could have deadly consequences for those subject to them.
She called for the GMC to confine itself to investigating serious breaches of good practice, performing these in a timely manner and to recognise the psychological effects their investigations could have.
She said: ‘Doctors under investigation by the GMC are dying. The GMC’s own report shows that in a three-year period between 2018 and 2020, five doctors died by suicide while under investigation or monitoring by the GMC.
‘This is a matter of life and death. There is a culture of fear around the GMC, the fear that anything in the work or personal lives, any mistake, poor judgement or disagreement could end up under their scrutiny.’
Made examples of
Dr Knight also spoke out against the use of sanctioning vulnerable doctors purely for the purpose of sending a message to the rest of the profession by making an example of that individual.
She said: ‘[Suspending registration] to protect patient safety or to give a doctor time to regain their FTP is one thing but suspending a doctor for the purposes of “sending a message” to the wider profession and public is something quite different.
‘What message is the current approach sending out? That if a doctor makes a mistake it doesn’t matter if they apologise, take action to repair or change it’s still not good enough. The GMC says it helps protect patients, doctors are patients too. Our lives are worth protecting. The GMC FTP procedures have got to change.’
Yesterday saw the GMC overturn the suspension of GP Manjula Arora. Dr Arora had been judged unfit to practise in May this year by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service on grounds of dishonesty following a misunderstanding about Dr Arora receiving a laptop for work.
Responding to the medical regulator's U-turn, BMA council chair Chaand Nagpaul said the decision demonstrated that the system for assessing FTP was ‘structurally disproportionate’ and ‘manifestly unjust’.
Backing Dr Knight’s proposals and urging those present to support it, Merseyside GP Surendra Kumar referenced Dr Arora’s suspension as a case in point as to why the GMC needed to reform its processes.
He said: ‘On the front cover of the GMC’s Good Medical Practice “working with doctors, working for patients”. Is this what the GMC is achieving by imposing sanctions on doctors who are BAME, who are female and whose first language is not English?’