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July 3, 2014

Private Eye Issue 1369
Filed under: Private Eye — Dr. Phil @ 10:52 am

Inquiring into the GMC


Jeremy Hunt has rightly ordered an inquiry into NHS whistleblowing, to be chaired by Robert Francis QC. He cannot hope to fulfil his promise of no more health service cover-ups without understanding why and how the numerous cover-ups in the past have happened. And this inquiry must reach every level of the NHS, to show how high up the chain the denial, incompetence, amnesia and wilful blindness has gone. MD has long since given up on the General Medical Council as having any meaningful role in calling doctors to account or protecting patients from avoidable harm. The Eye reported Dr David Elliman, a consultant paediatrician at Great Ormond Street to the GMC on September 30, 2011, alleging that he failed to act appropriately on whistleblowing concerns that might have prevented the death of Baby Peter Connelley. The GMC is still investigating. And the GMC is still pondering its initial decision not to hold an inquiry into the conduct of Dr Barbara Hakin, now deputy CEO of NHS England, in not responding appropriately to the patient safety concerns of whistleblower Gary Walker (Eyes passim). This referral is now two years old.


The overwhelming impression is that the GMC delays difficult cases so long in the hope complainants will withdraw their complaints. This is certainly the experience of Dr Peter Wilmshurst, the Godfather of NHS whistleblowers (see Shoot the Messenger ), who has dedicated his life to holding those who lie about the results of medical research to account. ‘I have two cases before the GMC and five that the GMC recently refused to act upon. The Assistant Registrar has audited the five cases and found that in 2, the GMC’s handling of the cases was materially flawed and in the remaining 3 it may have been materially flawed, but the GMC decided not to look further into those 3 cases. In those 5 cases, which the GMC will not reopen, the Assistant Registrar decided that the decisions of the Case Examiners (to dismiss the cases) was wrong and the wrong decisions were because of incorrect advice from the GMC’s expert, a medical qualified professor of law and medical ethics. The Assistant Registrar said that the GMC’s expert failed to consider some allegations in those cases, and with respect to allegations that he did consider the advice of the GMC’s expert was ambiguous and contradictory and the Assistant Registrar says that the GMC cannot understand some aspects of the advice from their own expert.’


‘With respect to the two ongoing cases, one follows complaints that I made in 2008 which the GMC has tried repeatedly to get out of dealing with. The latest stunt has been to threaten me with a High Court hearing unless I comply fully with the GMC’s disclosure requests. Initially the GMC’s lawyers asked me to disclose legally privileged court documents and had I done so I would have broken the law. The GMC’s lawyers must have known that they were asking me to break the law. I had to engage a lawyer to bat that off. Next they asked me to disclose the medical records of over 400 patients and witnesses in the case. The GMC has the right to those documents but does not have the right to ask me for them. I would be in trouble had I disclosed them.


I informed the GMC’s lawyers of the fact that they should have known that they are entitled to have the records but must apply though the relevant hospital medical records department for the documents. In the 15 months since I told the GMC this, they have made no attempt to get the records. I believe that again the GMC was wasting my time and attempting to get me to do something wrong. However the GMC subsequently asked me to disclose other documents, which I have been compelled to disclose. Those are over 6,000 documents, consisting of over 34,000 pages that I have spent many hundreds of hours copying and emailing to the GMC. Had I refused to do so the GMC threatened me with a High Court hearing and said that they would drop the charges against the dishonest doctor that I had reported. He has previously appeared before the GMC for other offences of dishonesty that were found proved.


GMC disclosures are not covered by the Legal Procedures Rules, which apply to maintaining confidentiality of disclosed documents in court proceedings. Those given disclosed documents by the GMC (i.e the charged doctor) can do what they wish with the disclosed documents and those documents that I disclosed include patient information, which will be given to a doctor that has a record of dishonesty and research misconduct. The GMC will give no reassurance about their confidentiality.


The other on-going case involves complaints from another and me about a medical member of the GMC Council. We specifically allege that the doctor silenced and detrimentally treated whistleblowers, including those who raised concerns about Mid-Staffs. I best say no more at this stage, except that once again the GMC is trying to bog me down with an unreasonable disclosure request.’


If someone as ethical, knowledgeable and determined at Wilmshurst struggles to get any form of timely accountability from the GMC, it shows how pointless and soul-destroying the exercise can be for patients and carers. A further kick in the teeth for Wilmshurst emerged when surgeon Anjan Kumar Banerjee was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for ‘services to patient safety.’


Wilmshurst reported Banerjee to the GMC twice. On the first occasion he was suspended from the Medical Register for falsifying medical research and on the second occasion he was erased from the Medical Register for “lack of probity” (he defrauded patients and medical insurers) and for “substandard medical practice”, which involved him performing inappropriate operations, particularly on private patients. Amongst the GMC’s determinations was that he lied to patients with cancer about the length of NHS waiting lists to induce them to go privately. He was struck off the Medical Register for 6 years, then allowed back on.


Banerjee was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh for the first time when he was awaiting his GMC hearing, at which time he was suspended from his hospital, under investigation by the police because of his financial misconduct and under investigation by the Royal College of Surgeons because of concerns about his clinical skill. Despite the fact that he is a surgeon and not a physician, he was re-elected to the RCP Edinburgh after returning to the Register. He has also been elected to Fellowships of the Royal College of Surgeons in Glasgow and Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh since going back on the Medical Register. The Royal College of Surgeon in England withdrew his Fellowship in England after the GMC adjudications, allegedly because they were so angry that he had presented false data during his Hunterian Professorship lecture (the most prestigious lectures of that College). Banerjee continues to claim the Master of Surgery qualification from the University of London even though the investigation by Professor Michael Farthing for the University showed that the data used for the thesis that was submitted for that degree was also false. Banerjee is now apparently also on the Board of Examiner for the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians.


As Wilmshurst puts it: ‘I am in favour of rehabilitation of offenders, but I found the speed of Banerjee’s rehabilitation surprising. If you add to this the fact that the GMC also found a professor guilty of serious professional misconduct for his involvement in research misconduct and he was then invited to  give a prestigious named lecture at the Royal College of Physicians in April this year,  and the fact that a gynaecologist was given a Silver Clinical Excellence Award by the Advisory Committee on Clinical Excellence Awards only 18 months after being placed on the Sex Offenders Register, I cannot help asking whether the rewards in medicine are going to the wrong doctors.’