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At the heart of general practice since 1960

Where's my get-out-of-jail-free card?

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Does the GMC respect your work as a doctor? After the inexplicable decision to award their plum job to a guy whose red-faced appearance in front of the Public Accounts Committee made my second year pass-fail pharmacology viva attempt look slicker than Fonzie doing the moonwalk, I’d kind of assumed that the organisation held all of us in equal contempt. But some doctors, it transpires, are more equal than others.

As a mere GP, my work isn’t deemed valuable enough for such antics

According to a recent ruling by the GMC's Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service* an eye surgeon who conducted a 15-month sexual relationship with a patient was found to have impaired fitness to practise, but the MPTS decided not to sanction him as it concluded his surgical skills and abilities were ‘truly exceptional’ and it would be ‘jeopardising patient safety’ to suspend him. 

Let that sink in for a moment. Just as Premiership clubs overlook the Bacchanalian excesses of their star players, and the Government decided that the banks who stuffed the economy are too big to fail, so it turns out there’s a secret clause at the end of Good Medical Practice that says ‘PS: If you’re like super good at fixing cataracts you can pretty much ignore everything else in here. Fill your boots LOL.'

Where was I? Oh yeah. I imagine it would be quite fun to walk into a fitness to practise hearing safe in the knowledge that your job renders you untouchable. I’d be tempted to sit there fabricating my CV on a big screen projection, and then, on my inevitable acquittal, direct a conspiratorial wink at the panel before conspicuously prescribing myself a crate of celebratory heroin.

Of course as a mere GP, my work isn’t deemed valuable enough for such antics. But why not? This week Pulse listed 10 quiet successes of general practice, from enhanced cancer survival to reduced teenage pregnancies. There’s no miracles here, no rockstars, just thousands of hardworking professionals, diligently ticking boxes and tweaking behaviours, with a net result of millions of lives improved and countless pounds saved.  We lowly grunts may not merit a get-out-of-GMC-jail-free card as individuals, but our collective efforts are something to be proud of. 

Dr Pete Deveson is a GP in Surrey. You can follow him on Twitter @PeteDeveson

*Pulse have asked me to make it clear that the decision was taken not by the GMC per se but by its arms-length subsidiary, the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, which, though a statutory committee of the GMC and funded through the same non-voluntary stethoscope tax, considers itself to be a separate and independent entity. I therefore urge readers to note the subtle distinction between the GMC and the MPTS and to definitely not copy my schoolboy error of viewing them as two cheeks of the same arse.

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Readers' comments (23)

  • Perhaps, a modern state should have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the consensual and lawful sex lives of adults?

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  • That's a valid question - so I asked it.

    Joe Public is 2:1 against legalised patient-shagging.

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  • Sleazy GMC.

    On the bright side, GPs will also soon be able to argue that to suspend us from the register will harm the public, on the basis that there are so few of us left.

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  • You have a get out of (GMC) jail free card... its a card being played more than ever and is used by downtrodden gp's to get away from the vice like grip of this totalitarian stasi like contemptible organisation.

    Its called removing yourself from the dreaded register by either retiring or EMIGRATING..... play the card and get your dignity, self respect and life back.... and whats more don't pay them either to remove you from the hit list.....just dont pay the subs and you're removed for free!!

    or otherwise you can just stay and keep paying for them to persecute you...... your skills can do the talking but only if you let them

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  • So it looks like a significant minority think this is OK which raises the question of whether doctors require legal protections against this discriminatory treatment?

    There are many sexual practices which some people find taboo eg anal intercourse, BSDM, gender reassignment and so on but the law goes out of its way to protect these groups. How can it therefor be legal to hound doctors who may find themselves in a legal relationship which some people disapprove of? The relationship could be entirely legitimate such as geographically isolated doctors, meeting randomly online/in a bar or sharing another social circle or club activity out of work. A power imbalance is often claimed yet the people that come out worst from this always seem to be the medics.

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  • "The relationship could be entirely legitimate such as geographically isolated doctors, meeting randomly online/in a bar or sharing another social circle or club activity out of work"

    I understand the GMC makes allowances for such circumstances. If you meet a patient randomly online and have a sexual relationship, it would only be required that you ask the patient to change doctor at the point you become aware that they are your patient. In single-doctor communities, I don't think the rule is generally enforced.

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  • re Anonymous 9:28am: We'll all soon be working in single doctor communities....

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  • This comment has been removed by the moderator.

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  • I wish the moderator wasn't so quick to remove posts deemed unsuitable. I bet they are generally a lot more interesting than the ones they leave.

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  • Took Early Retirement

    I agree- the GMC and its running dogs have no business at all in interfering with adults' sexual relationships so long as they are legal- IMHO.
    At the moment it is all in the pateint's favour. They might enjoy it, even be the one that encourages it, but when it is over, it's "Kiss and tell" time to get back at the doctor.

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