GP appeal system attacked

HEALTH ministers are urg ently considering changing the law to allow family doctors to be suspended after health authorities have been unable to stop GPs practising even when they have been struck off.

The move comes as a family doctor in Woolwich, south- east London, continues to treat patients five years after his 'culpable' failure to examine a patient properly - and nine months after he was struck off. The General Medical Council also found he had failed to visit the patient and that he had falsified medical records.

The GMC removed him from the register in March. Under existing rules, however, a doctor can continue to practise while an appeal is heard by the Privy Council. In this case, the doctor was granted an adjournment in July because he was not properly represented.

Greenwich and Bexley Family Health Services Authority (FHSA) is now taking him to an NHS tribunal to remove his contract with the NHS. The doctor, however, will have the further right of appeal if that tribunal finds against him.

John Potter, director of primary care for Greenwich FHSA, said yesterday that authorities like his needed power to suspend GPs, just as hospital doctors could be suspended during an investigation. '

John Austin-Walker, Labour MP for Woolwich, said: 'It is a scandal that this case has dragged on so long. The Government must act swiftly in the interests of patients.'