Sunday, May 20, 2007

The General Medical Council

The GMC is the regulator of the medical profession in the UK. It licenses doctors to practice, has the power to revoke or place restrictions on that license when a doctor's fitness to practice is called into question. The purpose of the GMC is to protect, promote and maintain the health and safety of the community by ensuring proper standards in the practice of medicine. The main guidance that the GMC provides for doctors is called Good Medical Practice, which outlines the standards that are expected of doctors. This all sounds well and good, however the reality of the GMC is entirely different.

Judge Charles Harris raged: "It is like a totalitarian regime: anybody who criticises it is said to be mentally ill - what used to happen in Russia."

This comment related to the case of an NHS whistle blower who the GMC tried to smear as mentally ill and incompetent, before investigating the very serious concerns raised. It sums up the utter contempt that the GMC has for fairness. Ironically 'Clinical Governance', the NHS' version of corporate governance, has 'openness' as one of its key elements. One of the chief architects of Clinical Governance, the Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson, seems intent on ignoring his own chatter; as medical politicians and managers are never held to account for their dangerous actions by the GMC.

The GMC uses the most bizarre and dishonest argument to justify this stance. They claim that their guidance is only 'directed towards practising doctors involved in medical management.' This is despite the GMC printing a document about good medical practice in management. This effectively means that once a doctor has stopped practising medicine, they can behave as dangerously and dishonestly as they like without the GMC lifting a finger.

This stance grants our non-practising medical dictators the freedom to make decisions that may result in the wanton slaughter of patients, while their practising colleagues on the ground can be held to account for the most minor of indiscretions. Whistle blowers in the NHS are written off as loony or incompetent, while the dangerous practice that they tried to uncover is quietly brushed under the GMC's expensive carpet.

The GMC is also happy to put any old doctor on their UK medical register, even if they cannot speak and write english to an appropriate level. The GMC thinks it should be left to the employer to determine this. I am hardly filled with confidence that the GMC is protecting patients given that they accept any old EU medical degree as proof of medical competence, even if the degree comes from the most dodgy of medical schools in the most dubious of countries.

The GMC is endangering patients by collaborating with our political masters in Whitehall. The GMC is used by the government to help enforce a brutal NHS culture of fear and intimidation that prevents doctors from speaking out against the government's dangerous reform agenda. The pretence at 'openness' is a sham that covers up a vicious dictatorship that stifles progress by encouraging the exact opposite. It's a shame because genuine progress can only come with a culture that fosters an open and accountable democratic structure, not this top down Stalinist approach. Recent government reforms via Sir Liam's white paper promise to do little to improve this dismal situation, as it appears that the new system will be subject to yet more corrupt political control.

It's ironic that if Stalin were a medic then the GMC would not be able to strike him off the medical register, however they would be able to dish out brutal punishment to a petrified doctor who was simply following Stalin's orders. This is the world of the brave new NHS.



UPDATE: due to various requests, emails, comments, etc. around and about this post, I have hidden comments and am allowing no more. This is the first time in my two and a half years of vituperative blogging that I have ever had to do this.

I've removed my more vituperative comments about the medical profession in general as I don't hold any brief against them; however, I do not want this argument to continue here. Please take it elsewhere.

Thank you Dr De'ath for writing this piece (on which I believe him to be substantially correct), and to those few who joined the debate rationally.

DK