Danger doctors are ignoring sanctions and still practising as powerless GMC fails to police its bans
Doctors banned from working by the General Medical Council because they are a danger to the public are ignoring the sanction and continuing to practise. The watchdog is powerless to check whether those suspended or placed on ‘restricted duties’ are obeying the orders.
Experts, including former presidents of the GMC, admit it is an ‘intolerable situation’ and warn that not enough is being done to protect patients from dishonest and potentially dangerous doctors.
Since 2009 a total of 17 doctors have been found to be working in breach of certain restrictions made by the GMC to ensure they did not put patients at risk, an investigation by Channel 4 News has found. This included four who were found to be continuing to treat patients even though they had been suspended.
The cases – uncovered through Freedom of Information requests – are only those the GMC is aware of. Sir Donald Irvine, who was president of the GMC between 1995 and 2001, said: ‘I think it’s an intolerable situation.
‘The current system does not protect patients as well as it should do. It is dependent on the truthfulness and honesty of the doctor. ‘I think some of these cases slipping through the system indicate that something tougher is required.’
He said that all doctors the GMC found to be working in breach of their restrictions should be immediately struck off – and barred from ever practising again in their lifetime.
‘Personally I would favour giving the doctor a very clear signal that if you behave in such a dishonest, deceiving way, you really can’t be trusted as a doctor and you should be struck off.’
In one case, a GP convicted of negligence by the GMC for prescribing Calpol to a baby who later died from meningitis was able to get a job with an out of hours firm without telling them he was on restricted duties.
Dr Godwin Duru, who qualified in Nigeria, was told he was only allowed to work as long as he was supervised at all times by another doctor to ensure he was not making similar errors. But in 2009 he secured a job with out of hours firm Herts Urgent Care without telling them of these restrictions. He was only found out when other patients complained about his work and the firm investigated his past. He was immediately sacked and has since been suspended by the GMC.
In another example, a GP who had been jailed for three years for possessing heroin managed to get jobs with two separate surgeries without telling them of his conviction.
Dr Stuart Green was told by the GMC he could only continue working on condition that he told any potential employer about his criminal past so they could make an informed decision whether or not he would pose a risk to patients. But he was able to work for five months at a surgery in Reading and as a locum in Hackney, east London, for another nine months without telling his employers of his past. He was subsequently found out by the GMC, although it is not known how, and has since been struck off.
Charlotte Ellis, a medical negligence lawyer at Richard Nelson LLP solicitors in Nottingham, told Channel 4 News: ‘I think the GMC is just under-resourced. ‘And I personally think that there should be people to [investigate] because patients and the public are at risk. ‘They don’t have the resources to be checking every single doctor who is under their fitness to practise regime’s registration.’
Last year, 106 doctors were suspended by the GMC for up to a year and a further 72 were struck off. About 30 were put on restricted duties and told they could only work under certain conditions.
A blast from the past about Alzheimer’s
The OPTIMA project has been going as long as I can remember but its founder (below) still seems to think vitamins are a way forward. There must be an awful lot of vitamin deficiency around if that is true
The fundamental problem with Alzheimer drug research is that it is almost entirely based on the ‘amyloid hypothesis’, a theory about what causes AD that appears increasingly invalid.
Amyloid is an insoluble toxic protein deposited between the nerve cells of the brain that has been shown to kill them. In 1991, scientists in London discovered that a mutated gene in the precursor protein to amyloid (beta-amyloid) caused a rare genetic form of AD. Since then, drug companies have considered that manipulating amyloid lies at the heart of dealing with AD.
But this puts all their eggs in one basket. Billions of pounds have been spent, and every single trial has failed. Some drugs made the symptoms of dementia worse.
Research should be geared towards intervening at an early stage. This is key to slowing down or stopping nerve cell death associated with AD. Once the nerve cells have died and the brain has shrunk, it’s too late.
I am the founding director of the Oxford Project to Investigate Memory and Ageing (OPTIMA), which studies the causes of dementia. Last year we recruited 270 elderly people with memory problems and gave them Vitamin B tablets – folic acid (800 micrograms), B12 (500 micrograms) and B6 (20 milligrams).
The supplements, which cost as little as 10p a day, were found to slow shrinkage of the brain by an average of 30 per cent a year – and slow the rate of cognitive decline – in people with high blood levels of homocysteine. Raised levels of this amino acid can increase the risk of developing AD three or four-fold.
By regulating homocysteine with B vitamins, we showed for the first time it is possible to slow the progress of the disease, if you start early. More trials are needed to test whether continued treatment can delay its progress indefinitely, but B vitamins have been shown to be as good clinically as Aricept – and better in that they slow the disease progression rather than ease the symptoms.
There is no way of knowing who is predisposed to AD, apart from extremely rare familial forms of AD.
But those with memory problems should have their homocysteine measured and be started on B vitamins, under medical guidance. Normal dietary intake isn’t enough. One (200ml) glass of semi-skimmed milk contains 2.5 micrograms of B12, and most manage to eat five micrograms a day. But we do know people with high Vitamin B intakes are less likely to develop dementia, so every little helps.
Large-scale studies are needed to see if nutrition and exercise can slow the conversion of memory impairment to Alzheimer’s disease. We also need to know if they improve the response to drugs such as donepezil.
For OPTIMA, the next step is a trial of 1,000 people with MCI to see if B vitamins prevent the conversion to dementia over a two-year period. Can AD be beaten? I am optimistic.
Thousands of British MS sufferers to be offered world-first daily pill to battle disease
It’s obvious that nothing works terribly well but some relief is better than none
Thousands of people with MS could benefit from the first pill to treat the disabling disease. The NHS rationing body has approved the drug fingolimod which can halve relapses compared with standard interferon injections.
Experts hoped the once-a-day pill will replace injections and hospital infusions for at least 5,000 sufferers a year.
In its initial assessment, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) said the drug was not value for money despite admitting it works. But after considering extra evidence on its effectiveness Nice decided to give the go-ahead for use on the NHS.
Dr Eli Silber, a consultant neurologist who leads the MS service for South London based at King’s College Hospital, and was involved in trials, said: ‘We’ve waited a long time for an effective oral treatment to offer patients who are continuing to relapse on first line injections. ‘Today’s decision increases treatment choice. Because it is a highly effective oral agent it may change the way MS is managed in the UK forever.
‘With more active forms of MS, we have a limited window of opportunity to make a difference to patients’ lives – many are young people who are raising families and starting their careers. ‘I want to get appropriate patients onto this therapy as quickly as possible.’
MS is the most common disabling neurological condition, affecting almost 100,000 Britons – 50 young people are diagnosed each week.
It involves damage to myelin, a protective sheath surrounding nerve fibres of the central nervous system which means the body’s immune system attacks itself.
Symptoms range from mild, occasional illness involving numbness, muscle weakness and eye problems to rapid and severe deterioration, resulting in serious disability.
Trial results in the New England Journal of Medicine last year showed fingolimod, also known as Gilenya, cut relapse rates and progression of the disease. Patients treated with fingolimod had a 50 per cent cut in disabling relapses compared with commonly used injections of beta interferon.
The chances of progressing to a worse form of the disease were cut by about a third, without significant side effects.
The new drug appears to dampen the immune response that causes nerve damage in multiple sclerosis.
The £19,000 annual cost of the drug compares with the £21,000 annual cost of hospital infusions using Tysabri, and manufacturer Novartis has devised a patient access scheme that cuts the price.
MS specialists say the drug could make overall savings for the NHS, because fewer patients would need hospital treatment costing £3,000 a time after relapse and disability is lessened.
The draft guidance from Nice means it will be funded by the NHS in England and Wales after final guidance is issued next month. The drug, made by Novartis, was rejected for NHS use by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC).
Nick Rijke, Director of Policy & Research at the MS Society, said: ‘We are delighted; this decision signifies a major step forward in the treatment of this devastating condition. ‘Gilenya has been found to be highly effective in trials and taking a daily tablet will come as welcome relief from frequent, often unpleasant, injections.
‘Making this new treatment available will increase patient choice for thousands of people with MS across England and Wales, but we’re deeply disappointed by the SMC’s decision in Scotland – and urge them to reconsider.’
Professor Carole Longson, Director of the Health Technology Evaluation Centre at NICE said: ‘Following new information provided during the consultation, the analyses show that for these people (with highly active MS), treatment with fingolimod will be a cost effective option for the NHS, if Novartis provides the drug at a discounted price, as proposed in its patient access scheme.’
Curfews, tags and no TVs: British PM orders prison boss to end ‘soft justice’ and put emhpasis on punishment
David Cameron has ordered Ken Clarke to dramatically toughen community punishments, with offenders facing curfews, confiscation of TVs and tags that monitor alcohol and drug levels in their blood.
The Prime Minister admitted many non-custodial sentences were a ‘soft option’, with no element of punishment involved.
He has ordered officials to draw up legislation, expected to be unveiled in the Queen’s Speech in May, requiring all community sentences to include punitive conditions
The move is another blow to Justice Secretary Mr Clarke, who has been accused of undermining the Tories’ traditional stance on law and order.
But it is also an attempt to shore up public confidence in community sentences, which are likely to be used more frequently as budget cuts squeeze prison places.
Mr Cameron, speaking on a flight home from his successful three-day visit to the U.S., said: ‘For too long, community sentences have been seen and indeed have been a soft option.
‘This Government wants to change this and make them a proper and robust punishment. Criminals given a community punishment shouldn’t just be able to enjoy life as it was before. They should pay for their crime and I intend to see that happen.’
Most controversially, the Government intends to use the latest tagging technology to monitor movements and activities.
Mr Cameron wants to use tags that check levels of alcohol and drugs by testing perspiration every 60 seconds to ensure offenders are complying with bans on particular substances.
The Government will also extend the use of GPS tags, which have been tested in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.
A government source said: ‘At the moment, people just have a machine at home that says whether they’re there or not.
‘GPS tags can ensure we can stop people from going to the football, keep them away from certain pubs, clubs or entire town centres.
‘You can be much more sophisticated about curfews and restrictions that ensure someone’s life doesn’t just carry on as normal.’
Courts will be given new powers to confiscate offenders’ property as part of a community punishment, including credit cards, driving licences and passports as well as property such as TVs or vehicles.
With prisons at near-capacity for several years, the legislation will be seen as an attempt to shift public opinion on the worth of non-custodial sentences.
According to the latest figures from the National Offender Management Service, one in four offenders given community sentences or released early from prison on licence failed to comply with the terms set by the authorities.
The period for which curfews can be imposed under the terms of a community sentence has already been extended from six to 12 months. Daily curfew hours have also been extended from 12 to 16 hours.
‘This isn’t about softening people up because we want fewer people to go to prison,’ the source added. ‘The truth is that the majority of non-custodial sentences have no punitive measures whatsoever. ‘The law will be changed so that there must be punishment so that community sentences are seen as credible and robust by magistrates, victims and the wider public.
‘We want to restrict liberty through much greater use of curfews, tagging, confiscation and fines.’
The real bigots in Britain’s gay marriage row are the liberals
By Simon Heffer
On Thursday, the Government launched a consultation on its plans to allow people of the same sex to be ‘married’ in civil ‘weddings’. I use quotation marks not to denigrate the idea but because, like millions of others, I believe that the only people who should be able to marry and have a wedding are those of different genders.
My opposition to homosexual ‘marriage’ is straightforward. The phrase is simply illogical — and no change in the law can make it otherwise.
I uphold the traditional idea of marriage and what it has meant since the earliest Christian times. Namely that it is the ultimate recognition of the relationship between a man and a woman, often for the purposes of having children.
I am aware that many same-sex couples are deeply committed to each other and often wish to solemnise that commitment with a ‘marriage’ ceremony. However, what the change in law would do is to alter dramatically the nature of the institution for everybody, radically changing its very meaning and significance.
Moreover, none of the main political parties proposed same-sex marriage in their 2010 election manifestoes. And for the avoidance of doubt, I do not have any prejudice against homosexuals or lesbians, or wish them to be discriminated against. Nor do I hold my views because of any religious objection: I am not religious. It is simply, for me, a matter of common sense.
We used to be a society where differing views were respected. I respect the views of those who support same-sex marriage, even though I profoundly disagree with them. I would not dream of insulting them or their beliefs.
Indeed, anyone wishing to make the case against same-sex marriage must do so rationally. Calling its advocates rude names, or deriding their arguments, would simply weaken the case.
This view is plainly not shared by Lynne Featherstone, the Lib Dem MP who is Equalities Minister. She said the opposition expressed by prominent Christians to same-sex marriage was ‘homophobic’ and belonged in ‘the Dark Ages’. She singled out as ‘medieval’ the use of the term ‘heretic’ by a cleric to describe those advocating a change in the law.
Miss Featherstone said her own views were, by contrast, ‘progressive’ and the Government’s policy was ‘loving’.
Such blinkered intransigence — indeed, I would go so far as to call it bigotry — does not bode well for the free, pluralistic society that liberals claim to believe in. And it makes a mockery of their much-vaunted virtue of ‘tolerance’.
The truth is that a predominantly Conservative government is pursuing a social policy that is being driven by the minority Lib Dems.
I realise David Cameron trumpets his desire to legalise same-sex unions. He justified this belief at his last party conference, perversely, on the grounds that he is a conservative. Yet he is unrepresentative of his party, to whose MPs he has had to promise a free vote on the issue; and his justification is frankly frivolous and absurd.
I am more impressed by the sincerity of the argument advanced by Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office Minister, who sadly lost his brother to Aids and who says his party must drop its ‘backward-looking social attitudes’.
I can find no evidence that the majority of people support same-sex marriages. My homosexual friends tell me that many of them are opposed to the planned law change, for much the same reasons as I am. One told me he thought they were ‘silly’, ‘patronising’ and ‘just designed to make a political point’.
Therefore the majority of people — mostly silent — are being asked to accept a policy advocated by a minority, but which would have a serious effect on the nature of marriage.
The fact that the language used by those urging a change is intemperate only adds insult to injury.
The arguments of the mainstream Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches against same-sex marriages are well known. These are not pariah groups.
However, the language Miss Featherstone uses about them might suggest to the ill-informed that they are.
The slur ‘homophobic’ is designed, like ‘racist’, to shut down any argument — in other words, to censor debate. When a liberal such as Miss Featherstone calls someone ‘homophobic’, the implication is that person is prejudiced and holds views that are beyond the pale.
The truth is that ministers are all too aware of the widescale opposition to their policy (not just among clergy, but also among many reasonable people of faith and no faith), and have cynically decided to launch an all-out assault on their opponents.
Their weapons are abuse, vilification, unreason and moral blackmail as they attempt to silence, or at least cow, the opposition.
This is a shocking attack on freedom of speech. Just because somebody — priest or otherwise — finds same-sex marriage irreconcilable either with his conscience or his sense of reason, does not make him a homophobe. Nor does it make him medieval.
The tone taken by supporters of same-sex marriage, and not just by Miss Featherstone, against those who disagree with them has been deliberately intimidating.
It’s not as if opponents are calling for discrimination against homosexuals. Indeed, the majority support the civil contracts for same-sex partnerships that were introduced some years ago.
No, I repeat, the opponents of same-sex marriage are decent people, motivated by the deepest conscience, who are simply seeking to stand up for their sincerely held beliefs.
Having the temerity to disagree with the Coalition’s minority-backed plan is not sufficient excuse for a minister of the Crown to abuse them.
The irony is that this insidious campaign of abuse has been promoted most vigorously by some Tories. It began with a depressing speech at the 2002 Conservative conference at Bournemouth by Theresa May, then the chairman of the party, who termed the Tories ‘the nasty party’.
Her comments were part in reaction to a big lie, that the party had lost two general elections because it was considered prejudiced against ethnic minorities, the poor and homosexuals.
The fact is that it lost in 1997 because John Major was a weak leader who never recovered credibility after Black Wednesday (the notorious day when sterling was forced to pull out of the Exchange Rate Mechanism in September 1992) and again in 2001 because it remained paralysed by this failure.
What Mrs May clearly believed was that using self-hatred, and grandstanding on social issues, would advance her party’s cause among people who were not its natural supporters.
This tactic didn’t work — the Tories have not won an election since — but it encouraged people such as David Cameron and Francis Maude to parade their consciences when touting for votes.
Now this assault on traditional conservative values is in full cry. Some argue that this is simply Mr Cameron and his friends trying to isolate and weaken his party’s Right-wing. Yet I fear there is more to it.
There is a sneering, disapproving tone used by Mr Cameron and his outriders against a wide range of conservative beliefs.
For example, those who protest against the exploitation of the taxpayer-funded welfare state by scroungers are dismissed as heartless. Those who want higher standards and the return of selection in education are regarded as divisive. Those who deplore the easy availability of abortion or divorce are dismissed as antediluvians.
And we have all noted the reticence by many leading ministers to condemn the most destructive and corrosive force in our society, the use of illegal drugs.
(Incidentally, how bitterly ironic it is that they wish so fervently for homosexual ‘marriage’ when they feel unable to do anything to support traditional marriage.)
The fact is that traditional conservative values are not a minority interest. They are instinctively held by millions of people of all ages, faiths, sexual orientations and classes in our society.
Liberals, however, maliciously seek to stigmatise the values as evil. They do this because they cannot trump conscience by reason alone.
Come the next general election, voters must muse on the fact that the greatest enemy of the principles of conservatism has turned out to be the Conservative leader himself.
BBC says blasphemy is OK
As long as it is not directed against Islam
A vicar who complained about ‘blasphemous’ comments made by Jeremy Clarkson has been told by the BBC that ‘offensive language is just a part of everyday life’.
The Rev Graeme Anderson said he was ‘surprised and upset’ after the Top Gear presenter shouted ‘Jesus wept’ and ‘God Almighty’ during a show on March 4.
Mr Anderson, of St Mary’s church, in Radcliffe-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, said: ‘I thought Top Gear was great before this.
‘But I found Jeremy Clarkson’s comments very offensive and I think many Christians would.
‘Sometimes the Church and Christians are belittled and cheapened, and sometimes we deserve it, to be honest. But this is different.
‘I also drew attention to double standards between the way the BBC deals with Christianity and Islam. I’m delighted the BBC treats Islam with such respect. ‘I just wish they would treat Christianity with some.’