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GPs who face GMC charges 'should be allowed anonymity'

GPs and medical defence experts are calling for the names of doctors who face GMC charges to be concealed.

The demand, intended to protect innocent GPs from 'doctor bashing' in the media and persecution by patients, came as the GMC revealed a fall in the number of guilty verdicts against GPs.

A spokesman said 35 per cent of cases involving GPs so far this year had resulted in the doctor being cleared, up from 26 per cent in 2002.

Director of policy at the Medical Protection Society

Dr Gerard Panting told a Royal Society of Medicine conference on sick doctors that GPs were left with a 'stain on their character that could never be removed' even if they were acquitted.

Dr Sherry Williams, deputy director of policy at the MPS, said GPs should have the same right as patients to anonymity.

'Why treat the parties differently? We've had doctors who committed suicide after being accused of sexual assault, even though those charges were never proven. Others have had their careers and lives ruined.'

GMC member Dr Krishna Korlipara, a GP in Bolton, backed the campaign. He said publishing the doctor's name implied guilt. 'Any GP who faces allegations of any kind, unless the public are at imminent risk, should be protected until proven guilty,' he said.

But a GMC spokeswoman said an 'open and transparent procedure' was necessary to protect the public from GPs whose fitness to practise was under question

Dr Charles Gould, a GP in Belfast, wrote to the GMC last week to complain that it released his details to the media after he was accused of attacking a psychiatric patient. He said the decision led the press to focus on the patient's side of the case. Dr Gould, who was cleared of all charges, said there was 'nothing fair' about the system.

Dr Robert Owens, a GP in Cardiff, said anonymity should apply in all legal cases, not just those before the GMC. He was suspended for 14 months without pay by the council, but was eventually cleared of sexual harassment charges.

His name was printed in the media, but the defendants were granted anonymity.

Dr Owens said: 'They say it's to help bring people forward but all this did in my case was cause another woman to make false accusations.'

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