It’s anyone’s worst nightmare; an ill family member or friend let down by the very person they thought could save them, their doctor. Unfortunately, between 2010 and 2011, we saw a 30% rise in medical negligence claims, suggesting that the General Medical Council (of the GMC) are not being strict enough.
This 30% increase means that the NHS has to find the money to foot a 15.7bn bill (a cost which will mainly go towards the care of those let down by their doctor). But although the cost it bad enough, people are growing increasingly concerned that the General Medical Council (or the GMC) are not doing enough to ensure inadequate doctors are fined or, in the most severe cases, struck off.
The GMC are an independent body that regulates the training and practicing of doctors throughout the UK, including the doctors register. Their focus, therefore, is to ensure that patients receive the best possible care. But are the GMC really doing enough?
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that no; the GMC aren’t doing enough. A case in the South West of England saw two doctors specialising in breast cancer hold onto their license following a series of life-threatening blunders between 1991 and 1997. Despite wrongly giving 82 cancer patients the all-clear, resulting in 11 subsequent deaths, Dr John Brennan and Dr Graham Urquhart were only charged with serious professional misconduct, and thus allowed to continue practicing as doctors (albeit with certain restrictions).
Other reports by independent health committees have shown many experienced doctors aren’t up to the same level as newly qualified physicians. And worryingly, in 2007, it was revealed in the media that there were at least 11 working doctors with previous sex convictions, with the GMC stating: ‘an automatic bar (on doctors with sex convictions), without exception, would not be compatible with human rights legislation’. But just as there are cases against the GMC not being strict enough, a recent announcement reveals how doctors who deft their terminally ill patients the right to refuse life-saving treatment will be struck off, showing that perhaps the GMC is listening the public concern over negligence.