Letter: Surgeons' awards

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Surgeons' awards

Sir: Frank Dobson is entirely right to question the General Medical Council's decision in the Bristol heart surgeons case. The president of the Royal College of Surgeons is wrong in supporting the GMC penalties and the retention of merit awards by the doctors involved ("Anger at call to ban heart surgeon", 20 June).

How is it logical that a heart surgeon is stopped form operating on 17- year-olds but can do so after their eighteenth birthday?

How can the President of the Royal College of Surgeons defend doctors struck off by the General Medical Council retaining bonuses of pounds 40,000 for life on top of a salary of pounds 58,000.

But then merit awards, already discredited because of sex and race bias, are given mainly by other senior consultants, for life. To remove one would set a precedent. Besides, the award committee state "they are not intended - nor should they be seen - as a measure of the quality of treatment afforded to individual patients".

I was always proud to be part of a profession that stood up for patients but I am ashamed at the total lack of humility shown by the response of the President of the Royal College of Surgeons and other members of the medical establishment. They do not speak for all doctors. They certainly do not speak for patients.

The whole medical profession has to take collective responsibility for what has happened. We must apply the test - would I want my family seen by these doctors? If it is not good enough for us, it certainly is not good enough for our patients.

Merit awards, which will cost the NHS nearly pounds 1bn in the next five years, should be based on true merit - quality of service to patients and commitment to the NHS.


London E3

The writer is a member of the British Medical Association council