Record number of doctors banned for serious misconduct

A record number of doctors were banned from practising medicine last year after being found guilty of serious professional misconduct by the General Medical Council, the doctors' disciplinary body.

Figures show that 72 doctors were struck off or suspended from the medical register in 2002 compared with 53 in 2001, an increase of 36 per cent.

A further 62 had conditions imposed on their practice or were reprimanded last year, compared with 46 in 2001.

Their offences included botched surgery, fraud, prescribing illegal drugs and taking sexual advantage of patients. The cost of training a doctor is estimated at £200,000 and their collective loss to the NHS amounts to tens of millions of pounds.

The General Medical Council (GMC) said the increase reflected a doubling in the number of panels that hear cases from three to six, to clear a backlog that had built up over many years. Last year the professional conduct committee sat on 651 days compared with 479 days in 2001.

But there was some good news for the beleaguered medical profession. For the first time since 1995, the number of complaints against doctors made to the GMC fell last year to 3,943. That represented a 12.5 per cent drop on the previous year's record high of 4,504 complaints, suggesting that the crisis of confidence sparked by the Bristol babies heart surgery scandal and the Harold Shipman murders may be over.

Anyone can report a doctor to the GMC, including patients, members of the public and other organisations.

When a series of high-profile cases came before the GMC in the late 1990s, including that of Rodney Ledward, the self-styled "fastest gynaecologist in the west" who botched surgery on scores of women, complaints soared.

From an annual average of about 1,000 complaints in 1995, they rose to 3,000 by 1999 and continued to rise to 4,470 in 2000. After hovering at that level for two years the latest figures suggest they may now be starting to come down.

Paul Philip, the GMC's director of fitness to practice, said: "Over the past five years the GMC has experienced a significant rise in the number of complaints received. This resulted in a backlog of cases waiting for hearings. Recognising this, we increased the number of hearings to six a day and the backlog has now been cleared.

"Last year the number of complaints fell for the first time since 1995. We are confident all complaints can now be dealt with in a timely fashion."

The average time taken to assess a complaint was less than seven days, Mr Philip said. Seventy per cent of them were rejected at the preliminary stage for lack of evidence but for those referred to the professional conduct committee for a full hearing the average wait was eight months. Previously, cases could take years to be heard.

Peter Tomlin, chairman of the Suspended Doctors Group, claimed the increase in the numbers being struck off was evidence of doctor bashing. "The GMC has changed its standards completely. They are conducting witch hunts because of the adverse publicity that flowed out of Bristol. They have been panicked."

Dr Tomlin, a former psychiatrist who has campaigned on behalf of suspended doctors for 20 years and claims to have helped 300, said many were left dependent on state benefits after being struck off.

"One or two have gone on to become medical advisers to pharmaceutical companies. I know one who set up a chain of food shops. It's a terrible waste. In terms of the public money invested in these doctors, to put them on the dole is a silly way of doing things," he said.

THE CASES

By Jeremy Laurance

Michael Pembrey, 56, was struck off after performing unnecessary hysterectomies on seven women while working at the Conquest Hospital in East Sussex between 1989 and 1999.

Alun Jones, 61, a GP from Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, was reprimanded after he forged a signature to cash an insurance policy.

Mohannad Al-Fallouji, 51, was struck off for making unprofessional comments to patients at the Pilgrim Hospital, Boston, Lincolnshire.

Bhagat Singh Makkar, 62, a London GP, was struck off for acting as the middle man in the buying of kidneys from live donors for transplant.

Dr David Baillie, 48, a GP in Glasgow, was struck off for molesting 12 young women over eight years. He convinced his victims that they required internal examinations.

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: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

    £28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

    £16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

    Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

    £16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

    £17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

    Day In a Page

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    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