General Medical Council drops cases against four Mid Staffs doctors

Legal advisors said there was 'no realistic prospect' of securing a finding against them

There will be no further action against four doctors who held management positions at the scandal-hit Stafford Hospital.

The General Medical Council (GMC) said it was closing the cases after legal advisors said there was "no realistic prospect of securing a finding against these doctors on the allegations made".

There was "not the evidence" to bring action under impairment or misconduct proceedings, according to advice provided to the GMC from Tom Kark QC, leading counsel to the Francis Inquiry which looked into serious failings of care at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

The GMC, which prosecutes cases against doctors, had been investigating Dr John Gibson, Dr Valerie Suarez, Dr David Durrans and Dr Diarmuid Mulherin.

Niall Dickson, the GMC's chief executive, said he understood people felt "badly let down" over the fact very few people have been brought to book for failings in basic levels of care which were uncovered at the hospital.

But he said: "The law is clear: we can only prosecute a doctor if there is sufficient evidence of that individual's wrongdoing."

Robert Francis QC found a focus on financial performance over adequate staffing was a significant factor in the poor care at the hospital and in a review published earlier this year, made 290 sweeping recommendations for healthcare regulators, providers and the Government, leading to calls for a shake-up in the culture of the NHS.

However, despite the failings and what the Francis report described as the "appalling and unnecessary suffering of hundreds of people" and a higher than expected death rate among patients, only a handful of clinicians have faced sanction in front of a professional standards board over their roles.

Mr Dickson said the GMC, which prosecutes cases against doctors, had taken the unusual step of publishing its legal advice, given the exceptionally high level of public interest in the Stafford Hospital case.

"He (Mr Kark) advises us in the strongest terms that these cases cannot proceed to a hearing," said Mr Dickson.

"Mr Kark has told us that there is 'no realistic prospect' of securing a finding against these doctors on the allegations made.

"Following the extensive investigations we have undertaken - which Mr Kark acknowledges in his advice - there is not the evidence to establish either misconduct or impairment against any of the doctors.

"We know that many of those who saw and experienced the appalling care at the trust feel badly let down and frustrated that no-one is taking responsibility for what happened.

"However, the law is clear: we can only prosecute a doctor if there is sufficient evidence of that individual's wrongdoing.

"To help explain our decision, we have taken the unusual step of publishing in full the letter from Tom Kark QC which summarises his advice."

The GMC said to date it had investigated 44 doctors in relation to the Mid Staffordshire trust, concluding all but one of those cases - including the four investigations which have been ended today.

In 16 cases it was determined there would be no further action, while in 24 cases, doctors were given advice including two who were also warned.

Another doctor had "accepted undertakings" from the GMC, while another had also agreed undertakings and been issued with advice.

One doctor has been erased from the register.

In the letter, Mr Kark said: "Having reviewed all of the evidence which the GMC has now obtained from witnesses who were able to give direct evidence of the actions and omissions of these four doctors, we have advised that the evidence provides no sound basis for a finding of serious misconduct nor of deficient professional performance such as might lead to a finding of current impairment and accordingly in our view there is no realistic prospect of such a finding."

He added that the weight of the evidence gathered from witnesses was "favourable" to the doctors.

"It provides a picture of well-intentioned individuals doing their best in difficult circumstances to improve poor standards," said Mr Kark.

Mr Dickson said it was now discussing with the Department of Health making changes to its powers to strengthen its ability to hold doctors to account, and had already embarked on "radical reform" of its procedures as the independent regulator of the UK's 260,000 doctors.

He said: "We want to be able to hold doctors to account where they have harmed patients or put them at risk, even if they have subsequently shown insight and can claim they are no longer a risk to patients.

"We also want to have a right of appeal against panel decisions by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service - this would allow us to act when we believe the panel has been too lenient.

"We hope these changes will form part of the Law Commission's current wide ranging review of the law governing the regulation of health care professionals."

He added: "It is vital that the public can have confidence in the system of regulation of doctors and hospitals.

"We are committed to working with others to bring about the changes needed to keep patients safe and drive up standards of medical care."

PA

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Experienced Bookkeeper - German Speaking - Part Time

    £23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm of accountants based ...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £30000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a financial services c...

    Ashdown Group: Field Service Engineer

    £30000 - £32000 per annum + car allowance and on call: Ashdown Group: A succes...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales & Marketing Co-Ordinator

    £15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established small company ...

    Day In a Page

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk
    Nepal earthquake: One man's desperate escape from Everest base camp after the disaster

    Escape from Everest base camp

    Nick Talbot was sitting in his tent when the tsunami of snow and rock hit. He was lucky to live, unlike his climbing partner just feet away...
    Adopting high fibre diet could dramatically cut risk of bowel cancer, says study

    What happened when 20 Americans swapped diets with 20 Africans?

    Innovative study in the US produces remarkable results
    Blake Lively and 'The Age of Adaline': Gossip Girl comes
of age

    Gossip girl comes of age

    Blake Lively is best known for playing an affluent teenager. Her role as a woman who is trapped forever at 29 is a greater challenge
    Goat cuisine: Kid meat is coming to Ocado

    Goat cuisine

    It's loved by chefs, ethical, low in fat and delicious. So, will kid meat give lamb a run for its money?
    14 best coat hooks

    Hang on: 14 best coat hooks

    Set the tone for the rest of your house with a stylish and functional coat rack in the hallway
    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?