GMC Panel Findings – Two overturned in One week

The High Court has taken the rare step of quashing findings of fact by a General Medical Council fitness to practise panel, ruling that the panel’s determination was “flawed by reason of procedural unfairness, failure to give adequate reasons, and, as a result, a possible failure properly to address all the evidence.”

The panel found that Robin Lawrence, a Harley Street psychiatrist, encouraged a woman patient to believe that he wanted to pursue an emotional relationship with her, told her he had a sexual fantasy about her, spoke of meeting her socially, and continued with psychotherapy after he had become emotionally involved with her.

Although it was not alleged that he had a sexual relationship with “Patient B,” the panel held that his behaviour was sexually motivated and an abuse of his position. His fitness to practise was found to be impaired, and he was ordered to be struck off the medical register.

But at the High Court in London Mr Justice Stadlen ruled that the panel’s findings that the charges were proved were “unsafe” and must be quashed.

The courts will rarely interfere with findings of fact that are based on the evidence of witnesses that a panel has heard and observed. As Lord Justice Leveson said in the appeal court judgment in the case of the paediatrician David Southall, “The task facing an appellant seeking to overturn findings of fact based on an assessment of the credibility of witnesses is a daunting one.”  Read more…..  BMJ 2012;344:e2025

 

Gagging Clauses

GMC tells doctors not to sign contracts containing “gagging” clauses Clare Dyer BMJ Doctors will have to boycott “gagging” clauses in agreements with employers or contracting bod- ies that try to stop them raising concerns about patients’ safety or poor quality care, under new guidance from the General Medical Council . Mirror guidance for doctors in management roles will put them under a corresponding duty not to propose or condone contracts or agree- ments containing such clauses. Gagging clauses still appear, despite NHS guidance as far back as 1999 that all trusts should “prohibit confidentiality ‘gagging’ clauses in contracts of employment and compromise agree- ments which seek to prevent the disclosure of information in the public interest.” Niall Dickson, the GMC’s chief executive, said, “These clauses are totally unacceptable. Doctors who promote or sign such contracts are breaking their professional obligations and are putting patients, and their careers, at risk. “Our new guidance makes clear that doctors must not sign contracts that attempt to prevent them from raising concerns with professional reg- ulators such as the GMC and systems regulators such as the Care Quality Commission. Nor must doctors in management roles promote such con- tracts or encourage other doctors to sign them.” The guidance .. which comes into force on 12 March, also makes it clear that doctors have a duty to act when they believe patient safety is at risk or when a patient’s care or dignity is being compromised. Cite this as: BM} 2012;344:e626

Published April 20 2011 –

By Andrew Pugh

Secret doctors courts move a ‘disaster for patients – Press Gazette

Plans to hold General Medical Council hearings behind closed doors have been condemned as a “sad day for press freedom” and a “disaster” for patients.

A consultation on the GMC’s ‘fitness to practice’ hearings was launched earlier this year after medical professionals claimed they had become “overly punitive”.

The GMC’s consultation paper argues that the presence of journalists means “allegations which the panel may later conclude to be unfounded are sometimes published in the media”, and that “a public hearing is itself perceived as a form of punishment”.

The GMC claims many of the public hearings are unnecessary and that they “create significant stress for the doctors, complainants and witnesses involved.”

The body also believes public hearings “may give the false impression that a large proportion of doctors behave inappropriately”, and that “media coverage inevitably highlights the most serious cases and sometimes includes serious allegations about doctors which subsequently prove to be unsubstantiated”.

 

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Published 29 July 2009, doi:10.1136/bmj.b3055

The key to effective whistleblowing is interprofessional collaboration

 

John Roddick, retired structural engineer, Cardiff

 

Professionals of all disciplines are indebted to the BMJ forhaving opened up the issue of whistleblowing and for it beingsummed up so well by Peter Gooderham (BMJ 2009;338:b2090, doi:10.1136/bmj.b2090).As he points out, much more could be done by official bodiesto help overcome the culture of silence and fear in many workingenvironments. However, the time has come for those professionalswho feel strongly about the problem to take matters into theirown hands and lead the way towards a reassertion of true professionalismappropriate for the 21st century.

Faced with all the demands of the modern working environment and often inappropriate media coverage, to say nothing of career and family concerns, it takes a very special professional togo “out on a limb” and make a stand about something he or she believes not to be in the public interest. When the constraints. .

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