Friday, 11 June 2010

The GMC Knight

The GMC was formed in November 1858, All of it’s presidents except two have been Knights or Lords either prior to or subsequent to appointment. No GMC President has vacated the post untitled since 1892.

Graeme Robertson Dawson Catto succeeded Sir Donald Irvine as President of the GMC in Nov 2001. He was knighted within weeks. Irvine had been forced to stand down or face a vote of no confidence.

No appraisal of Professor Catto’s performance as President of the GMC could exclude consideration of his role in revalidation. Revalidation was first proposed after Harold Shipman was convicted of murder in January 2000. Despite him being the only Doctor in British history convicted of murdering his patients it was felt necessary to introduce measures to prevent a recurrence. This was a pure knee jerk response, but typical for the last government. The GMC made initial proposals but these were criticised by the Shipman enquiry and replaced by proposals from the enquiry. Sir Graeme and the GMC did not initiate these proposals but have been at the forefront of a propaganda campaign designed to have the medical profession accept them, and impose them regardless. Sir Graeme has been deaf to many valid criticisms of the proposals, not the least of which is that revalidation would almost certainly not detect another Shipman. The majority of the profession remain sceptical, suspicious and unconvinced, and finally the BMA have responded to their members’ concerns.

The new government appears lukewarm about the entire concept and the future of the revalidation project is now most uncertain.

So, let’s take a while to look at Sir Graeme’s other achievements as GMC President.

Well that didn’t take long now did it!

This is a pity as there many areas where the GMC could stand some improvement. Sir Liam Donaldson himself has written a report accusing the GMC of inconsistency, “the council causes distress to doctors over trivial complaints while tolerating poor practice in other cases”. It accuses the Council of being "secretive, tolerant of substandard practice and dominated by the professional interest, rather than that of the patient"

There is also the scandalous practice of “draft determinations”,

“its use of draft determinations and predetermined sentences of erasure. It has now been admitted by the GMC’s own solicitors that the assistant registrar, who was also the secretary of the professional conduct committee, would either write or direct clerks to write draft determinations some weeks prior to the professional conduct committee sitting. The draft would then be handed by the committee secretary to the chairman and the panel to be read out as the final determination. In these cases, the draft also contained the predetermined sentence of erasure, which basically means that many of these hearings were effectively a complete sham.”

Hansard 16 March 2009.

This way of conducting hearings is similar to that of the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. "Sentence first!, verdict after!." It constitutes a breach of article 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998.

Also in 2008 the burden of proof required for the GMC to convict a Doctor was reduced from the criminal standard (beyond reasonable doubt) to the civil (balance of probabilities). This is grossly unfair. Doctors under investigation are not in dispute with another individual over some civil liability. They are accused, by an enormously powerful authority, of what the GMC considers crimes, with the most potentially disastrous punishments. The only purpose behind this change is to make it easier to convict a doctor without having to bother with troublesome concepts such as evidence.

In summary the GMC has suffered such a (deserved) fall in it’s reputation that even a past President, Sir Donald Irvine, has called for its abolition.

So Sir Graeme Catto, for a complete failure to reform an organisation badly in need of fundamental change, and allowing the GMC to sink deeper into total disrepute, in my view easily qualifies for the description, a suit full of bugger all.

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