'Worst Behaved Doctors' Still Allowed To Practise

One UK Doctor Threw A Scalpel During An Operation, But Kept His Job

11.08.2014

Incidents of doctors throwing scalpels during operations, failures to identify cancer on several occasions and the possession of drugs are just some of the reports against medical professionals in 2013 highlighted in a new report.

The Mail on Sunday obtained this information after issuing a Freedom of Information request to the General Medical Council (GMC), finding that altogether, 147 doctors were given formal warnings by the body during 2013.

However, despite the seriousness of some of the unprofessional incidents, none of the offenders lost their jobs, leading to concerns regarding the safety of patients given that they are still allowed to practise medicine. The newspaper likened this to receiving no more than "a slap on the wrist".

Although 3,348 individuals were formally investigated by the GMC during the year, just 55 (1.6 per cent) were sacked, while 86 received a suspension for their actions.

With just 233,000 licensed doctors in the UK overall, this is a significant figure.

Chief executive of the Patients Association Katherine Murphy commented: "The GMC is there to protect patients. It must never compromise their safety by failing to deal with serious breaches of professional duty and trust in an appropriate manner."

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC, explained: "Warnings sit on the doctor's record for five years and are publicly visible on our website."

Arguably most concerning are the cases where doctors failed to diagnose cancer on more than one occasion, meaning patients were not receiving the right care for a potentially life-threatening condition. This failure occurred at least five times throughout the year.

Unprofessional activities outside of work - including indecent exposure, possession of cannabis and kerb-crawling - were also recorded, leading to further concerns regarding the people who are appointed to provide care in the country.

Such manners were not just recorded outside of hospitals though, as one surgeon received a formal warning for throwing a scalpel across an operating theatre while a procedure was taking place.

Expert Opinion
Some of the behaviour highlighted in these reports is extremely worrying. Disciplinary measures such as suspensions are in place to ensure patients receive the best possible care and are treated by qualified and well-trained professionals, but in many of the cases highlighted doctors were simply given a formal warning about their conduct.

“It is vital the General Medical Council takes appropriate action against doctors who have been discovered to behave in an unacceptable way or put the safety of patients at risk through their conduct to ensure patients are given the highest possible standard of care. It is crucial the GMC and the NHS carry out a review into the disciplinary procedures currently in place if it is discovered wider failings are present within the process.

“Through our work we have seen the consequences that patients can suffer after receiving sub-standard care and it is vital patients are reassured that action is taken to suspend professionals found to be behaving unprofessionally and putting people in danger.”
Mandy Luckman, Partner