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At the heart of general practice since 1960

A groundless complaint completely derailed my GP career

Fear of a complaint still haunts this GP, despite all charges being dismissed against him

I completed my training in 2006. After several locum jobs and working in out-of-hours, I was happy to get a salaried position at a GP practice in the south of England, with an option to become a partner.

However, after only a week in the job, I was informed by the partners that they had serious concerns about my safety as a GP and they were terminating my contract immediately. My face must have been a picture of total incredulity and surprise.

The next thing I knew was a letter from the PCT, a couple of days later, with notice of temporary suspension of my performer’s licence and explaining I had been reported to the Performer’s Board for investigation. It also came as a total surprise to me, as it was never mentioned by the partners that they were referring my case anywhere.

There were three months in which I had to find evidence of my actions (lucky for me, I keep comprehensive records), support for my decisions, and advice from my defense union, which reviewed any correspondence related to my case. When I saw finally a copy of the complaint against me, it suggested that I could be mentally ill.

When the Performers Panel finally took place, I had the support of my trainer, and, bizarrely, also one of the panel members. She excused herself from participating in the decision, but explained I had worked as a locum in her surgery and had excellent feedback from patients, colleagues and admin team. I had also letters of support from my locum agency, and one of the surgeries where I was working as a locum.

In the end, I was cleared of all charges, and all suggestions about my mental health were refuted. I was requested, by the panel, to take a ‘communications skills’ course - which I enjoyed very much – but the impact on my life was dramatic.

After being reinstated, I did not find another locum job for the following two months. I lost several months of income, and this affected my family’s financial security.

As a foreign citizen, I also ran the risk of my refused my Tier 1 visa renewal being removed.

The out-of-hours service requested that I had to do a new application with all the involved paperwork and certifications.

And my self-esteem suffered very badly, with my self-confidence taking more than a year to return.

Over time, I learned to work despite the fear of being reported or complained about, something in the back of the mind of every doctor working in Britain today. Is very sad that our practice has to be guided by fear, and by patient’s extortion when their demands are not met.

I still soldier on, guided by the Hippocratic principles of honesty and fairness, and above all, the best interest of my patients. I am still a human being, but a worried and slightly afraid one.

Name and address on file

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Readers' comments (24)

  • you have my complete sympathy. I too am currently awaiting the outcome of a vexatious GMC complaint from the family member of a patient. 3 months and not a word from anyone. The reality is we all now live in fear and anyone can write anything they want to the GMC, which they investigate with a "guilty until proven innocent" attitude and at a snails pace. my advice is practice defensively, go with great caution in the 50:50 calls (I.e admit or refer rather than wait and watch), investigate most things, and make sure you give no one a chance to even have a chance of taking you down. Looking at emigration personally once I can apply for a certificate of good standing. Good luck to you.

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  • What were you accused of?

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  • The problem is there is no mechanism to seek redress for malicious complaints. This is now such a profitable industry that the MDU have moved to Canary Wharf. In political terminology, complaints have been weaponized. The whole system is being exploited for profit and is corrupt.

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  • Exactly as 7.33pm says. GPs now need to practice extremely defensively. This is the new reality inflicted on us by the GMC and is a much more appropriate and effective reaction than developing "resilience"

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  • Terrible situation..old Herr Kafka would have priduced more novels writing in this NHS era.
    But we need to know a little more about the substance of the complaint and akso your theory abiut the hidden agenda

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  • The fact that you have refused to reveal the nature of the complaint makes me wonder whether this is a case of "no smoke without fire".All that can be inferred is that the volume of evidence against you didn't reach the guilty threshold.It doesn't prove that you were innocent.

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  • 1.12 Are you seriously suggesting doctors should prove their innocence? That claim will ring pretty hollow, the first time you get a nasty complaint. Doctors cannot easily defend themselves in public because it would breach patients right to confidentiality.

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  • Anonymous | Sessional/Locum GP | 15 January 2015 1:12pm

    The fact that you have refused to reveal the nature of the complaint makes me wonder whether this is a case of "no smoke without fire"

    Very funny nice to see the DM trolling around these parts.

    But for those with a brain - this does raise very serious issues and is likely to mean we need to practice extremely defensively. Without moral support from society our MDU/Mps costs will just continue to rise

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  • Interesting but very frustrating article. With so little detail about the allegation and no chance to hear the other side it is all a bit pointless. We are left to ponder.

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  • according to the higher powers that be, its because you're not "emotionally resilient" enough.

    Some profession we've all got ourselves into huh?

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