GMC’s proposed fitness to Practice – Dr Peter Wilmshurst

Rapid response by Dr Peter Wlimshurst BMJ 18 July 2016 

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes
I have considerable doubts whether the GMC’s proposed changes to fitness to practise procedures as outlined by Anna Rowland will benefit either patients or doctors.[1]
I am surprised by the GMC’s claim that the proposals have received positive feedback from patients. The GMC Patient Leaders Roundtable scheduled for 21 June 2016, at which some
of these issues were tabled for discussion, was cancelled by the GMC at one day’s notice “due to unforeseen circumstances” and has not been rescheduled.

I have considerable concerns about the GMC’s plans to pass responsibility for some procedures to employers for two reasons.

1. There are many examples of employers concealing or failing to take prompt action in response to poor clinical care and dishonesty by doctors either to protect the reputation of their institutions or to prevent patients becoming aware of events that might cause the trust to pay compensation. In some cases it took years before miscreant doctors (e.g. A K Banerjee and C Handler) were removed from the medical register.[2,3] In the latter case, the Medical Director of the trust involved in the cover up was a GMC member.[3] It is clear that in many cases the interests of institutions are placed before patient welfare.

2. Institutions have misused disciplinary procedures, including GMC procedures, to silence those who raise concerns. Some trusts employed private detectives to spy on whistleblowers. Others secretly searched through the computers, the desks and even the waste bins of whistleblowers to find something incriminating to use against them. A secret audit of a consultant’s practise by an external clinician has been used. When all those turn up blank, trusts have suspended whistleblowers on fictitious charges.[4] From working with Patients First I know that such spurious suspensions allow trusts to claim that doctors have become deskilled, so that they can no longer be employed or revalidated.

In some cases trusts have made complaints to the GMC about whistleblowing doctors and after a year or more the GMC has dropped the case when the trust failed to provide any evidence. In other cases, trusts have offered to withdraw allegations made to the GMC provided that the whistleblower agreed to withdraw concerns that they had made about patient safety.

There are valid concerned about doctors who died during GMC investigations. Some of those deaths were the result of allegations made by trusts as a result of the types of institutional misconduct described above.


1. Rowland A. GMC review of procedures is complete. BMJ 2016;354:i3654. [See also rapid response ]

2. Wilmshurst P. Poor governance in the award of honours anddegrees in British medicine: an extreme example of a systemic problem. BMJ 2016;352:h6952.

3. Wilmshurst P. No doctor should be untouchable. BMJ 2013;346:f2338.

4. Dyer C. Whistleblower who was excluded from work for five years wins apology from employer. BMJ 2008;336:63.

Competing interests: I was reported to the GMC and investigated for disparagement after I reported the concerns of a national committee that I chaired about misconduct in research.

Some of our concerns were later found proved (i.e. that the research did not have ethics approval and patients did not give informed consent), but the GMC said that they were unable to investigate our allegations that some data had been falsified because the institution refused to allow the GMC sight of the data. The GMC did not use its legal powers to compel disclosure (though the GMC has threatened whistleblowers with High Court injunctions forcing them to disclose documents). I am a member of the steering committee of Patients First, which has collected details of the experiences of whistleblowers. I have supported a number of doctors whose employers made spurious complaints to the GMC.

6 thoughts on “GMC’s proposed fitness to Practice – Dr Peter Wilmshurst

  1. It is even worse for Registered Nurses with the NMC and most dont have the £7500 to go to appeal in the High Court
    Many RNs get off scot free covered by employers and others have false allegations made against them

  2. Dr Peter Wilmshurst has given an excellent account of the thoroughly dirty tricks that some organisations and senior medical managers resort to when ridding themselves of whistleblower medics.

    In March 2015 Sir Anthony Hooper, who undertook a review at GMC’s request, advised GMC

    – to ask referrers whether a doctor had previously raised concerns

    – to ensure that referrers signed a statement of truth

    – to ensure that only registered doctors made referrals, so that they could be held to account under GMC’s fitness to practice procedures if they made improper and or falsified referrals against whistleblowers.

    GMC said it would accept all of the recommendations from the Hooper report.

    It has taken a very long time to implement and is currently only piloting changes.

    Very worryingly, the GMC pilot referral form still allows people who are not registered doctors to sign off.

    The form has also restricted the scope of the new, additional question about whether a referred doctor has previously raised concerns, and its wording does not fully reflect Sir AnthonyHooper’s original, recommended scope.

    Furthermore, in response to a request, the GMC has not yet been able to produce a specific action plan to doctors’ concerns about vexatious referrals in general, identified by the GMC’s own research in 2013.

    I fear that the club culture which has affected senior medical circles will not yield easily to the clamour for transparency and fairness.

  3. the NMC is no different to the GMC – Not fit for purpose. Newly qualified nurse (S Daw) of 7 weeks instigated a formal complaint (20.5.11) in which management and human resources (CAVUHB) were in receipt of ….

    From April 2012 – Aug 2014 I was investigated on false, malicious and insignificant allegations from the (alleged) complainant S Daw (later she denied they were her allegations, ps I know who the three instigators of the alleged allegations are as they very kindly, but not so clever wrote file notes and placed them on my personal file – without my knowledge or consent who clearly have no knowledge of the DP Act their file notes of Sept, Oct 2011 & Jan 2012 became S Daw’s allegations?)

    Back to 20.5.11 – I was to read this letter in Feb 2013 which happened to be submitted into the corrupt Dignity at Work Investigation Report (read by Prof of Dental Surgery, numerous HR and management, but NO ACTION TAKEN).
    I referred the CONTENTS OF THE LETTER to the NMC (child abuse and potential death of an unconscious patient).
    NMC – looked into it as a ‘Fitness to Practice’ NO, NO NO I say its not a FtP referral of the newly qualified nurse (although one does wonder what these Degree Nurses are being taught) – Its regarding the CONTENTS and why my Health Board did NOTHING – I am still waiting for a response (former RGN now).
    Since 2013 I have repeatedly requested why nothing was done by my HB and the NMC – To no avail…..

    At my ET I was x examined by the Respondents (CAVUHB) barrister (yes paid for by the tax payer) and I was a litigant (ps I won my case for unfair dismissal).
    That I was ‘nasty’ referring S Daw to the NMC … NO, NO, NO – I referred the CONTENTS OF HER LETTER, but the Respondents did nothing…

    However, they investigated me for: asking SD about her working hrs (which she denied was her complaint at ET), I keep a diary (due to the bullying I suffered) which I used as a ‘tool’ to threaten my colleagues, complaining about lack of preparation/stocking up for patients prior to surgery and finally asking new nurse (SD) to learn about assessments (I was inviting her to LEARN, but being newly qualified she was allowed to pick and choose what and with whom she wanted to learn – is this what they teach them at University?) – I was summarily dismissed on these allegations 8.8.14 (which were given to me via email from the IO and NOT THE COMPLAINANTS) 3.5 months into the Investigations (as said earlier c/o file notes from x3 others from my personal file).

    MORALE of my story…. Anyone working for the NHS 1. Regularly submit DP SAR to see what management and your colleagues are saying/writing about you 2. Don’t ask your colleagues esp the new ones to learn (even if you work in a Teaching Hospital and your 30 yrs qualified) 3. Don’t say your are having any sort of bad day – this will be documented as you have mental health issues/your suicidal 4. Don’t raise any issues about improving your dept for the safety of patients – this will be ‘secretly’ documented that you are ‘complaining’ 5. Don’t raise your complaints about being bullied or that your manager is verbally abusive and unprofessional – you will be accused of not being a ‘team player’…

    ENJOY YOUR JOB, SAY NOTHING (get a new job) then expose, ‘cos if your in the job whilst raising your concerns for well being for patients THEY WILL destroy you.

  4. indecent assaults reported to the GMC ignored, they did not even interview witnesses to the assaults of which there were many. The GMC findings as follows:- the above behaviour was unbecoming of a doctor. !!!!!!!


  5. Pingback: NHS whistleblowing articles in 2016: TWO years post Francis Review with NO change | sharmilachowdhury

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