The petty cruelty of the GMC
This is a summary of the article from The Spectator magazine, 20 August 2022.
The article criticizes the General Medical Council (GMC), the regulatory body for doctors in the UK, for losing the trust of many doctors. It emphasizes that doctors acknowledge the need for accountability and scrutiny but argue that the GMC has become overly bureaucratic, adversarial, and focused on pursuing minor indiscretions. The impact of GMC investigations on doctors’ mental health is highlighted, with cases often taking months or years to resolve, leaving doctors in a state of uncertainty over vexatious or inappropriate referrals.
The author shares a personal experience of being referred by a patient for a serious allegation, enduring an 11-month investigation despite evidence proving innocence. The toll on mental health during such investigations is underscored, with a survey indicating that 72% of respondents felt their GMC investigations negatively affected their mental and/or physical health. The tragic statistic of 29 doctors dying while under investigation or monitoring between January 2018 and December 2020, with five confirmed suicides, further emphasizes the gravity of the situation.
The article discusses a recent case involving Dr Manjula Arora, a Manchester GP, who was referred to the GMC over a laptop-related incident. The author criticizes the GMC’s handling of the case, calling it an embarrassment and lacking compassion. The case, based on a misunderstanding over the use of the word ‘promised,’ resulted in Dr Arora being suspended for a month, highlighting what many doctors see as the GMC’s failure to assess appropriate referrals.
The article also references the case of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba, a junior doctor struck off the medical register after the death of a six-year-old boy. The author argues that the GMC failed to consider extenuating circumstances and created a culture of blaming individuals without addressing systemic issues. Concerns about racial bias within the GMC are raised, with statistics indicating higher referral rates for doctors from ethnic minorities and those who qualified outside the UK.
Another troubling case involves consultant urologist Omer Karim, who faced years of turmoil after being racially discriminated against by the GMC. Despite being found to have done nothing wrong, Mr Karim lost his private practice and experienced significant personal losses. The article suggests that the GMC pursued the case to make a point and avoid embarrassment for an NHS trust, highlighting the prolonged nature of GMC investigations and their impact on doctors’ lives and livelihoods.
The British Medical Association (BMA) has called for a complete overhaul of how the GMC operates, claiming that it imposes fitness-to-practice sanctions on vulnerable doctors to send a message rather than prioritizing public protection and upholding standards. The article concludes with the assertion that many doctors no longer trust the GMC to treat them fairly and protect them from malicious or false accusations, emphasizing the difficulty of rebuilding trust once lost.