Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

Suspended GP `unable to take blood pressure'

A TRAINEE GP who could not even measure blood pressure correctly has become the first doctor to be suspended under new rules to weed out incompetent practitioners.

Doctor Arefaine Haile was suspended from practice for two months by the General Medical Council's Committee on Professional Performance.

The British Medical Association said the announcement showed that the profession was putting its house in order, after a series of highly publicised cases of medical malpractice and abuse. It urged the Government to move more quickly to tighten self-regulation.

Until July 1997, the GMC could only take action against doctors who were found guilty of serious professional misconduct - such as seducing a patient - or who were too ill to carry on. The performance measures were introduced to take action against doctors who were simply not up to the job.

Concerns about Dr Haile were raised during his traineeship on a vocational scheme in Yorkshire and he was provided with extra training and monitoring. But despite efforts to help him, in November 1997 he was dismissed from his post and referred to the GMC.

Four assessors, three medical and one lay, made a full examination of Dr Haile's practice in July 1998, which was submitted to the GMC in September. The assessors found his performance was unacceptable or gave cause for concern in standards of clinical care, treatment of patients in emergencies, keeping up-to-date and working with colleagues or in teams. His physical examinations were frequently insufficient and he was unable to perform basic procedures such as giving injections.

"On the evidence available to them ... [the committee] consider he is unfit to practise," the GMC said yesterday. Dr Haile has the right to appeal.

Dr Ian Bogle, chairman of the BMA Council, said there was a need for robust systems to be in place locally to regulate quality of care and enable action to be taken as soon as things went wrong.

"It is a medical crime to witness a colleague underperforming and do nothing about it," Dr Bogle said.

"The culture of hiding the truth or being afraid to speak out must change. It is not good for doctors, it is not good for nurses or health service managers and it is certainly not good for patients."