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Danger doctors are ignoring sanctions and still practising as powerless GMC fails to police its bans
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Danger doctors are ignoring sanctions and still practising as powerless GMC fails to police its bans

  • Watchdog is 'powerless' to check whether those banned are obeying orders
  • Experts - including former presidents of the GMC - admit it is an 'intolerable situation'

By Sophie Borland

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Ignored restrictions: Dr Godwin Duru

Ignored restrictions: Dr Godwin Duru who qualified in Nigeria

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.

 
'Intolerable situation': Experts - including former presidents of the GMC (pictured) - warn that not enough is being done to protect patients from dishonest and potentially dangerous doctors

'Intolerable situation': Experts - including former presidents of the GMC (pictured) - warn that not enough is being done to protect patients from dishonest and potentially dangerous doctors

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.

Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the General Medical Council said:
'Protecting patients must always come first and doctors who break conditions or a suspension order can expect us to take swift and firm action against them - in these cases, most of the doctors were then struck off by the GMC. We will not tolerate behaviour of this kind.

'What is more, any doctor practising medicine when they are suspended is breaking the law – we will follow this up with the police as well as acting ourselves.'

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